Monthly Archives: December 2022

The Soccer Ball

We somehow manage to stuff it in there. Among all his other stuff. The snack bag, the homework folder, the stack of books he’s forever reading, the endless pages of comics he’s forever writing. 

It fits. Just barely. He’s excited. He brought it yesterday, the old somewhat deflated soccer ball. They all played at recess. Him and the other boys. It was fun, he told me. One of them kicked it over the fence on purpose at one point but a teacher went to retrieve it. 

“I think we’re friends now, mom.”

I’m happy. It’s been a tough year. That was clear when the questions started. 

“Am I a weirdo, mom?”

“Do you think I’m normal?

“He pushed me down. Why did he do that?”

“Mom, did you ever feel like you didn’t fit in?”

Last night before bed, his dad got out the ball pump and made the soccer ball like new again. I drop him off at school, waving and watching him run to line up with his class. He won’t let me hug him anymore when we say goodbye but it’s nothing personal, he assures me. 

“How was your day?” I ask, all smiles, when I pick him up. “Did you play soccer again?”

No. One of the other boys brought a soccer ball today. They told him he couldn’t play with them. He says it so matter-of-factly. Then he runs off ahead, like he always does. 

As we walk home, I can feel my brain ripping itself apart trying to listen to his little sister, who is chittering away beside me all about her day, while it’s also screaming at me not to cry. Don’t you dare let them see you cry. 

He’s far ahead of us now. He looks so small from that far away, lost in his own little world. 

I hope it’s a happy place. 

At one point he turns around and runs back to us. 

“Mom, having the soccer ball in here makes it really hard to carry on my back.”

“Do you want me to carry it for a while?”

His eyes light up. 

“Yes! Thank you.”

He throws it off. He runs ahead again.

I pick it up and put it on my back. He’s right. It is hard to carry. It’s heavy and awkward and uncomfortable. 

I can’t do much. I know that. He’s growing up. But I can carry this burden for him for a bit.

For as long as he needs.  

That night I finally let myself cry. 

The next morning, he wants a donut. We compromise. A donut and a banana. Later, as he’s brushing his teeth, I go to put his snack bag into his backpack. It won’t fit. I move the endless papers around and there it is. 

The soccer ball. 

I feel my heart flutter. Hope, as another misunderstood soul once wrote, is the thing with feathers. I hold lightly onto it with one hand and grab his sister’s hand in the other. 

“Everybody ready?” I ask. 

I open the door and the wintry air hits our faces. We head out into the cold morning, him running ahead, forever ahead, despite the weight on his thin shoulders. 

(Flu) Season’s Greetings

My daughter has a fever. A runny nose. A headache.  

And she’s never been happier. 

See, it finally happened. After suffering endless medical maladies with vague symptoms she couldn’t prove, my 6-year-old, at long last, is Officially Sick. 

Sick and staying home from school today. 

It might seem an odd thing to say, but no one deserves it more than her. She has worked so hard for this day, striving single-mindedly to hit this goal since school started way back at the end of August. 

Every morning before school, we go through the same routine. 

“Mama, do I look pale?” she asks. 

“Nope, you look fine to me,” I reply. 

“Can you take my temperature?” she asks.

“98.6,” I read off the thermometer. 

“That sounds bad.” 

“It’s exactly what it should be.”

“Are you sure? Maybe we should call the doctor.”

“You’re fine.”

“My tongue feels weird. It feels pretty serious.”

When none of her efforts work and she’s forced (on the brink of death no less) to go to school, she turns to the only one who can help her now. The school nurse. A lovely woman whom I hope never to run into because my daughter manages to go to her office DAILY. 

Thus far in her first grade career she has had: 

Stomach ache.

Tummy troubles (it’s DIFFERENT, I’m informed).

Ear infection.

No, WAIT. Double ear infection. 

Almost broken arm.

A nearly fatal papercut.

Diabetes. Lots of it. 

Almost broken leg. 

Asthma. It can be deadly, you know. 

Poked eye. But like, a really bad poke. 

Allergy to carrots. Even if she’s not the one eating them, just someone in the world is. 

And after watching a version of “A Christmas Carol,” she was certain she had come down with tuberculosis. Once I explained to her what tuberculosis was. 

This is a child who was never so sad as when her brother got COVID last year and got to stay home for seven days. SEVEN. She never even got COVID. Which led to fun conversations such as “stop wishing for COVID” and “don’t you dare ask Santa for COVID.”

But now, OH! Finally! She is legitimately sick. With a respectable 102.4 fever. As she’s lounging on the couch daintily eating goldfish crackers and watching her seventeenth episode of “Bluey,” she proclaims this is the best day ever. Later, once she comes to her senses and out of her fever-induced fog, she amends it to “well, technically the holidays are my favorite day but today is my second favorite.”

When the medicine kicks in and I tell her she seems to be feeling better as she is bouncing (quite literally) on top of my head, suddenly a bout of terrible coughing engulfs her. The tuberculosis is back, she regretfully tells me. 

“I might *cough* have to stay home *cough cough* another day,” she says, unable to hide her smile. “Maybe even *cough hack cough* all week. …can you make me some mac and cheese, mama? And get me my stuffie? And my blankie? Oh! And I need more tissues! A juice box would be awesome right now…*cough*

Yes, ‘tis truly the most wonderful time of the year. 

For some of us.