|Photography by Mary Allison Tierney|
This week my children's school sent home a little blue sheet warning that my sons may have been exposed to Slapped Cheek Syndrome. Symptoms include a ruddy cheek rash (thus the name) fever and typical flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, it leads to childhood arthritis or connective tissue auto-immune diseases; it is contagious to adults, in particular women, ie. mothers. (My children for some reason, always chose to only throw up on me—always sparing their dad, my ex.) If that’s not enough, there is no cure, no medicine, no vaccine—absolutely nothing to do but become hysterical. Because they are most contagious in the one to four days prior to symptoms manifesting, it’s probably too late for us already.
Last week when our neighbor’s grandson dropped by, I noticed his dirt smeared four-year-old hands were covered with small reddish pustules; I asked his grandmother if he had poison oak. “Oh no,” she said. “He’s just gotten over Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.” I rushed to sanitize my hands like someone who’s just invited over a leper. It’s not like my children haven’t already had Hand, Foot, Mouth (which I used to think only struck barn animals), it’s that I’ve been sick for the greater part of the last six years, since birthing twins. People tell you for the first three years that if your kids are sick a lot, “Don’t worry, it will make them healthier later!” Someone obviously made this up to keep people from sending their babies down the river in little woven baskets.
I spent the greater part of this winter carting around the most recent diseases my children had brought home: Strep throat, Bronchitis, The Plague. After nursing my boys back to health while I crawled across the living room, I thought, this is it: I’m almost forty-five, I’m single, and I’m going to have to write the Great American Novel from my bed like Proust, only without a nanny or a chambermaid.
Next week, I imagine the school will send home a paper that reads: Your child has been exposed to an ancient virus that will make their limbs fall off. After waking you up twenty-five times each night for the next fourteen days, you will be able to glue their limbs back on, but your own limbs will not be reparable. You might want to invest in a wheelchair or a spot at the closest cemetery.
Pamela Alma Weymouth writes a humor blog on parenting and divorce for The Huffington Post. She has won awards for her fiction and essays from Glimmer Train and Traveler’s Tales. Her writing has appeared in Best Women’s Travel Writing 2009, Marin Independent Journal, and Hot Flashes: Sexy Little Stories and Poems I & II. She earned her MFA at University of San Francisco. She has taught writing at The Writing Salon & Berkeley Extension. She is writing a book called “Surviving Twinland.” She lives in The Bay Area with her twin boys and three hens named Birthday Gang, Zeke and Tango.