JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

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January 21st, 2004 · No Comments

After lots of email and phone calls to my family members, my mom and siblings, trying to set a date for a birthday celebration, it was finally confirmed on Monday night that Wednesday lunch at our home would work best for everyone’s schedules.

So yesterday after dance class and before dinner, I squeezed in a trip to the grocery store. I bought lots of perishables: raw shrimp, cooked crab, white and wheat rolls, lettuce, spinach, avocado and mangoes. The girls picked out a cake mix they could make, white with colored dots, and I had fun selecting a dressing for the salad I planned.

While Ted was away last night at a meeting, the girls and I got busy getting ready. I put away piles of laundry and tidied the house. I peeled and cooked the shrimp, adding spices to the water. The girls helped bake the cake in a heart -shaped pan.

But as we cooked, Abigail kept complaining of a headache. It seemed to come and go and I wasn’t sure what to think. Sometimes she’ll cry over a paper cut or want to be coddled for something small. But sometimes she can be strong and stoic. Unlike her younger sisters, she cut most of her teeth quietly.

As I tucked her into bed early, before her sisters bathed, I noticed her head felt hot. She had a fever of 102! I immediately felt guilty for my skepticism, dispensing ibuprofen and apologies to my daughter.

I wasn’t sure whether these were the first signs of the flu but I felt sure I should cancel our plans for lunch with my family. Giving someone the flu would not be a good birthday gift. So I called everyone and cancelled. I had some hope healing might come by morning, but Abigail still had a temperature when she woke today.

But I felt quite frustrated about it all. I should probably just feel sad and bad for my daughter, so sick. I confess though to having all other kinds of feelings, and I found myself last night wondering what to do next. I felt exhausted from a busy day but also disappointed that the plans I had worked so hard to make had to be broken. I wasn’t mad at Abigail for being sick. But I wanted to be mad at someone, at least a little.

And I wasn’t sure what to do with all the food. Our fridge was already packed with leftovers, little room remaining anyway. The thought of buying and cooking the food again, whenever our celebration got rescheduled, seemed overwhelming to me, in my tired state. Crab and shrimp don’t keep; neither do rolls or lettuce. All these perishables. Or what to do with the cake? I could put some items in the freezer, but they wouldn’t taste the same. But they also wouldn’t last. It felt like one big waste of time and money.

With weariness and frustration, I began the day today. There were piles of rolls and cakes on the countertop, crab and shrimp in the fridge. Kitchen full of clutter. The house felt like a mess, life out of control, with one ill daughter and a cancelled party, time and money wasted.

Then I saw myself this morning. In the bathroom. No, not in the mirror. But while I was giving Abigail a bath, the bath she missed last night, when she went to bed early instead. I saw how I was feeling overwhelmed, not knowing what to do with the food I feared would spoil. All these things that wouldn’t last too long before getting rotten.

But then I started to think about how I was treating my daughters. How my anxiety was coming out in my attitude towards them. And I thought about what would really matter from this moment, as I got my daughters ready for the day. Would Abigail really remember how the food went to waste? Or would she remember how I was cranky and impatient with her?

I thought about what was really perishable. Sure food doesn’t last long. I’m not sure the crab will still be good to eat tomorrow, and the shrimp probably aren’t too tasty anymore either.

But what is also short is the time I have with my children. In the kitchen tonight, while I was finally beginning to put the rolls and cake away in the freezer, Abigail stood up on one of the bar stools. We were standing face to face, eye to eye, my five year old and I. And I realized that it won’t be too long before she is grown, as tall as I am, and we really will be able to look each other in the eye.

This moment with my daughter, giving her a bath or cleaning up the kitchen, is also perishable. It won’t last long. Fleeting and ephemeral. I can’t get it back. I can waste it or use it wisely while I have it. But in her heart and mind, it will last. What she’ll remember, forever, is how I loved her.

Tags: journal