When your children get chicken pox, the world quickly falls into two categories. Those who look terrified and take one step back and those who step forward to lend a hand and go, ‘Poor baby..”.
The Bean got chicken pox 3 days before we were to go to Allahabad for X’mas. Yes, that is why you’ve seen neither hide nor hair of me in a month. Dad’s big birthday bash. X’mas. Precious nephew visiting India. Moving house. Every single thing blighted by the damn pox.
My first thought was, Why me?! A second later I remembered I was the adult in the equation and it was the poor child who was suffering. Not literally though. The vaccination she’s had as well as the booster shot, ensured that she didn’t get a particularly bad case of it so there was no fever and none of the listlessness and cough and what not I associated with it from my own childhood bout.
We’d attended a birthday party the night before and I sent out mass SMS to all the mothers asking them to check their kids before rushing her to the doctor in our apartment complex. She confirmed that at least 7 other cases had already been reported over the last couple of weeks. Subclinical she called it. Not infectious, but it would be best to give the Brat the vaccine booster since he exhibited no signs of having it, she said. I went home and sent a mail out to the complex google group warning them. While a few people mailed back thanking me for the warning, others mailed telling me not to go the ‘American way’ I quote. That kids will have ailments and will pass them around and there’s no reason to quarantine or warn. Um. Okay.
Either way, I knew our holiday was over. My chance to spend time with my brother and nephew, lost. I cancelled my tickets, then called and told my mother and SIL that I was not coming because I didn’t want to expose Baby Button to the virus. And then I settled down to do art and craft with the kids so that they didn’t go downstairs and infect the entire community. My phone didn’t stop ringing that day. Uncle, Aunt, parents, SIL, everyone kept calling. I have no idea what we spoke of but apparently we couldn’t stop. I have the bills to prove it.
The grandparents were torn. One set of grandkids having to stay away for the sake of another. The SIL was upset that we’d not get to be together. I was hopping mad at the timing. In general we’d all have been fine with the Button getting it if he’d been older, but he was only 11 months old and they had to travel back soon. Of course plenty of others saw it in black and white – if your kids are sick, no point risking another. But for family it’s never so simple. We all wanted to be together. We have only ONE f**king festival in the year to look forward to, this would be Baby Button’s first X’mas and this was the only time we’d get to be together as a family. X’mas is not about Santa and gifts – it’s about sitting around the fire ribbing each other and making your mother pull her hair out in bunches by only settling down for dinner past midnight.
By night the brother had woken up in the US and heard the news. He rushed out of a client meeting and called me – The kids have what? You’re not coming? This is not happening.
I shooed him back to work and went to bed only to wake up the next morning to a call from the SIL. Chicken pox or no, I was to haul my butt to Allahabad, not because they wanted to see me, but because the poxy kids were the Button’s cousins and he had a right to spend time with them. Secretly I was dying to hold and kiss him and didn’t care who caught what in the bargain, but the adult mask I sometimes like to prance around in dictated that I behave responsibly.
No no, I said seriously.
Yes, yes, she said firmly – Kids get chicken pox. That’s what kids do. We’re enough people to handle the kids and its not fair that you should be holed up in a flat without friends and family through X’mas season. Yes, yes, I bitterly cried inside my head. The Uncle and Aunt called – You come and stay with the kids at our place. Yes, that was all very well but then what would be the point? We’d still be together for meals and exposing the baby to the germs.
The OA came home from work and said – Am I the only adult in the family? You’re not going. We’re not going. We’ll figure out what to do to have a fun X’mas without infecting either your family or the entire apartment complex.
The kids were blissfully unaware of the change in plans.
And while we argued and debated, time sped on in that nasty fashion that it tends to when you badly want something. It was almost X’mas Eve and the brother was landing in Delhi and heading on to Allahabad. I went to the airport at 3 am to pick him up and till 7 am we sat in my living room, sipping on hot coffee and chatting. I savoured the time I got uninterrupted by kids and husband, just us siblings catching up, completing each others’ sentences.
Tambi woke the kids up before he caught the flight home and they tumbled out of bed in excitement. Tambi Maama was here!!!! It was all I could do to convince them not to hang on to his coat tails and go off with him. It was also heartwarming that they remembered him and were falling over in excitement on seeing him. Perhaps babies have a little sensor that tells them which people make their parents happy. Tambi dragged me out of the room and I wilted under his fierce glare as he bit out – You ARE bringing them home, chicken pox or no.
The OA kept rolling his eyes but we ignored him. I was sick of my kids being locked up in a flat like criminals, specially when the Bean felt perfectly fit and was running around making me dizzy. I was sick of being locked into the house myself with them and not having even a ten minute break because the conscience demanded that I don’t even get out to buy groceries taking them with me. With no house help I had no one to leave them home with either. I was so grateful to go home where there’d be others to share the work load and the joy err.. pox with. And I was so glad that the Bean would have people willing to touch her and cuddle her and hold her and not treat her like she was untouchable. It was the season of joy but the joy had been sucked out of her little touchy-feely-cuddly baby life. To go back a bit – after we got the Brat his shot the Bean asked sadly, “Mama, can I hug him now? I’ve been missing him.”
And so it was that two days later we got into our little coupe, and rattled away down the train tracks, the wheels chanting home, home, home. Sometimes you need to be at the end of your tether to appreciate what you’re getting. And this X’mas I learnt that family are the people who will hug you, kiss you even when you’re infectious and want you home even if they have an 11 month old being put at risk. Because the spotty 4 year old is as precious to them. And that God is rarely unkind enough to take away your 2 weeks of being aunt to the most beautiful, dimply, bundle of joy ever.
Home, home, home…. The train pulled in late thanks to fog, but on Christmas Eve we tumbled out onto the the grey, cold platform and straight into the warmth of excited family. Yep. Twas certainly the season to be jolly. Hope yours was too.
PS: This isn’t the end of course. Stay tuned to know why the title is called Chicken and Pork!