I was sick a lot as a child. Many of my earliest memories take place in a hospital, a plastic mask placed over my nose and mouth, being told to breathe slowly as the salty steam crept into my lungs. Other memories come from battling my asthma at home.
My mother always brought me to the bathroom when my loud, barking cough woke her. It was a cough that started deep in chest, its fingers gripping at my throat. Mom would pull me out of my bed and carry me to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet seat, my feet dangling, as she turned the hot water on in the sink and the bathtub. She would throw a few damp towels in the drier, and they would thump rhythmically when she turned it on.
She pulled me into her lap as the room slowly filled with steam. A trash can sat between her feet, and she pointed me toward it when my barking cough echoed off of the walls. I grew sticky with steam and fever, my nightgown clinging to me, my hair sticking to my neck. The air was thick, and Mom rubbed my back in small circles.
Eventually I would fall asleep in her arms, the cough easing to a whispery wheeze.
I’ve been sick this week. Just a cold, but enough to make me feel pretty miserable. But at the same time, the bag of supplies I lugged home from Walgreens brought back memories from my childhood. Of things that brought me comfort when I was ill. Sleeves of Ritz crackers and plastic bottles of Coke. Tissues with lotion and peppermint chapstick. Reader’s Digest magazines and Vick’s VapoRub, cool on my chest. Hot tea with thick honey and salty chicken noodle soup.
What comforts do you draw around yourself when you’re sick?