I am sick, and I write this from bed, all padded up with flannel and polarfleece and down. I am not very sick--just a cold, but a nasty one, with parched, cracked lips, coated tongue, spacy headache, chesty cough. I have gone through a box of Kleenex.
The dogs are cowering downstairs, as though afraid they will catch what I have.
I don't get sick very often, but when I do it brings me right back, BAM!, to childhood. As I lay in bed this morning, comforter to my chin, eyes closed, I could hear cars whizzing past, and chickadees chattering in the bare branches of the lilac bush, and I could feel the cold breeze on my face. And suddenly I was eight years old again, and it was February, after a heavy wet snow, and cars hissed past on the melting pavement, and birds chirped from their snowy branches, and I had a fever and was drifting in and out of sleep at home in bed instead of at school, eating cupcakes at the class Valentine's Day party.
What made me remember that so suddenly and so acutely this morning? The quality of the weak sunshine? The sound of the birds?
Memories of childhood illness are vivid. One year--I cannot remember my age, but I was still small--I became very ill, with a high fever, and in the middle of the night, restless, unable to sleep, the sheet tangled and hot, I cried, and my sister Nancy took me downstairs and made a nest for me on the couch and read aloud first the Snow Queen and then the entire story of the Nutcracker, the house all around us dark and quiet, everyone else asleep.
And the fantastic tale of children hiding under a huge woman's skirts, and the scary Uncle Drosselmeyer, and the chopping teeth of a nutcracker and the rats and the ice and the evil glittering snow queen and the sleigh and the doomed children all swirled together and after Nancy went back to bed I had strange, fantastic nightmares, voices jabbering, talking fast, talking unbearably slowly, things getting bigger and then getting smaller.
And one year I lay sick in Kristin's big bed between the windows. (I slept on a mattress on the floor in those years, but graduated to someone's bed when I was ill.) If I turned to the left I could see the streetlight at the end of our block, a comforting yellow glow. I could hear the clink of dishes and muffled chatter of my family downstairs, eating dinner, and I felt very alone. As I stared at the streetlight a little face appeared, the face of an elfin man who lived inside the lamp's glass cover. He scared me. He knew me. He looked right at me. I looked away, and when I looked back he had grown bigger. He grinned at me evilly.
Over the next few minutes, I looked away, afraid to meet his eye, and then looked back again, afraid not to keep watch. And each time I looked he had grown bigger, and had come closer, and all the while giving me his evil, knowing smile, until he was right outside my window, face pressed up against the glass, mouth leering, eyes all-seeing--
Kristin rushed up the stairs. She calmed me down. She told me that I was dreaming, that there was no man at the window, no man in the streetlight, nobody was trying to hurt me. She joked about it until I smiled. She pulled the covers up and lay her cool hand across my hot forehead and told me to go back to sleep.
After she left, I turned to the window again. The man was back in the streetlight, looking at me and laughing. But this time, somehow, I knew he'd stay there.
Photo: Nancy, me, Holly, Guv. I am not sick, though I look rather pathetic. It was just the sun in my eyes.
5 hours ago