For our family, Christmas Day was really the culmination of four days of holiday events. We had three states to drive through, dozens of family members to see, and over a hundred presents to hand out. Even better, we got to do the whole thing this year while puking our guts out.
Friday night at midnight, my daughter screamed from her bedroom. I ran in to find her sheets covered in vomit. We spent the next six hours holding her hair back, rubbing her neck, and coaxing water down her throat in between rounds.
As I tried to get her to rest, I worried about what engagements we would keep and how many people we were going to expose to a stomach bug. We couldn’t exactly cancel Christmas. It was hard enough to schedule a time for everyone to get together. You can’t disappoint a dozen children when they’re expecting presents. At the same time, you don’t want to get the whole family sick.
After almost two hours of sleep, I started making phone calls and discussing tactics. At this point in time, it was just my daughter who felt sick. Everyone agreed that we would just have to take our chances and do the best we could to quarantine my little sicky.
Our first family Christmas, she spent sleeping in an armchair, under strict instructions not to touch anyone but her mom. Thankfully, my little girl wasn’t in the mood to run around with her cousins. She wasn’t too excited about her presents either, but we accepted that as part of the trade off. She would have time to get excited about her new toys later.
We had one Christmas down and Brenna was on the mend. I was exhausted, but I figured we had been through the worst. Then, the flu started to spread. We were getting through our family Christmas, opening treats for the dogs and starting to rip through the triple-protected toy packaging, when the flu started to hit me. My stomach felt nauseous. My head started to hurt. We still had travelling to do and more family to see when I crawled into bed with a big plastic bowl and flat Sprite.
As my husband started to clean up all the boxes and entertain my daughter, I began to rearrange our afternoon’s activities. I factored in another six hours to be sick, based on the length of my daughter’s run. Six hours was really all I could afford to take off if we wanted to see everyone.
Finally, on Christmas Day, with my daughter and I still recuperating, we headed over to my parents’ house. It was our last family get together. We walked in with ginger ale in hand and presents in tow. We cuddled up in a corner under blankets, shivering because of our fevers but determined to enjoy ourselves.
It was a lot harder to be in the Christmas spirit this year. The carols just made my head hurt. The sweets just made my stomach reel. In general, I wasn’t fit to spend time with anyone. But it was still Christmas. I still got to watch my loved ones open gifts that I had picked out especially for them. I still got to be surrounded by my family, giving thanks for our blessings and taking comfort in one another’s presence.
It was Christmas. A pukey, feverish, possibly contagious Christmas. But if we could enjoy ourselves through this, we can get through anything the next year might throw at us.