If I’d thought that the Bean getting chicken pox was the worst of it, it wasn’t. Keeping the kids away from each other was a Herculean task. We entered the house and both kids flew to Button – I screamed, “Don’t touch him!!” They came screeching to a halt and remembered everything I’d coached them all the way from Delhi.
At this point everyone in the family rushed in to ensure that their feelings weren’t hurt and I lost track. The basic rules were that we were to sanitize our hands with bottles lying around the house in between touching my two and the Button. Button had also been given a homoeopathic antidote and I don’t care what people say about the system, it worked, and how!
X’mas at our place has always been crazy. Throw in three kids who have to be kept apart and a bout of chicken pox and the crazy quotient sky rocketed. On the whole it wasn’t too bad because the Brat had his shot and the Button had the antidote. So the whole family did their best to entertain the Bean and not let her feel unloved each time the Brat and Button cuddled. If I had a rupee for every person who said it was unfair to expose the Button to CP, I’d be a rich woman. But I think we’re all a little richer for having spent that time together. The Brat and the Button were soon inseparable. The Button actually believed he was the Brat’s equal and would keep beating him up, pulling his hair, crawling all over him, and finally pushing him over, all while the Brat lay on the floor laughing helplessly and hugging him.
We had our annual X’mas party planned so it seemed only fair to call and tell everyone who had kids to keep them away from mine. Dutifully we called up and told everyone that we’d understand if they didn’t show up. I was surprised by the number of people who showed up anyway, some without their kids and some with. The kids had a blast and I hugged the OA through the last dance that night, grateful we’d come home. I can’t imagine what we’d have done stuck in our flat in Gurgaon, unable to take the kids to the common park, to the grocery store, unable to have friends over. A shitty X’mas that would have been.
And in all this we’d wake up each morning and frantically examine the Button to make sure there were no spots on his little dimpled self while he’d look at us with his curious, big bright eyes, convinced that he’d left the comfort of his home only to end up in a madhouse. It was almost like having a third baby and the OA and I kept him with us as much as we could, washing his little butt, changing diapers and feeding him his bottle. Everything but his meals – only his mother could manage to make him finish his entire portion. It was also her job to feed the ultra fussy Bean who can drive a saint to crime. I have no idea what she did in there and I don’t want to know. All I know is that she made insanely huge portions and got them down the Bean’s throat while I enjoyed the respite from begging, pleading, coaxing, screaming, threatening to feed her to crocodiles and finally attempting suicide.
And then of course because all of this was too good to last, we woke up one morning to find spots all over the Brat -he’d got the bloody chicken pox after all. I’ll never forget the betrayal writ large on his face, ” YOU said if I got the vaccination I won’t get it!” Oh well, we tried, I reasoned with him, but the doctor said you might have already been in the incubation period.
But a child who has had a poke in his butt and still gets CP is not to be reasoned with. He got it worse than the Bean. At least a 100 little boils all over his body and we were back to the neem leaf and oatmeal baths and slathering on calamine by the gallon. On the bright side, his bout barely lasted a week. On one occasion, while trying to make sense of the unfairness of getting it after having had the poke, he seriously explained to a visitor, “I got it because Nani cooks too many things for dinner. We had chicken as well as pork at the same meal. So it turned into chicken pox.” Errr, okay, whatever helps you make your peace with it!
The Bean was torn between relief and remorse. “Now he won’t leave me to go play with the Button!” and “Maybe he got it because I was teasing him and saying I’m coming to lick you. I’m very sorry now.”
But honi ko kaun taal sakta hai yaada yaada and we couldn’t have got it in a better place. All day they played across my parents’ and my uncle’s homes, swinging, cycling, climbing trees, sitting by the pond and watching fish and even going boating to the Sangam. None of this could however make it up to the Brat that he could no longer touch the Button. And we tried hard, I’ll tell you this much. In fact many weeks later, we were back in Gurgaon and the Bean casually asked, “Mama, how do you know when you love someone?” And the Brat responded gravely (he thinks he’s an adult now that his permanent teeth are in), ” When you love someone you want to play with them all the time, you share your toys with them and if you have chicken pox you don’t touch them.” I thought that summed up love pretty succinctly.