1992 was my last year in retail. Over the course of four years, I'd worked my way up from plebian sales associate through various levels of management, and finally was a store manager with a fabulous new store. They had high expectations of us, and we were having a killer sales season. We worked crazy hours and I was exhausted by the time Christmas Eve rolled around. But I knew there was much kolache baking and merriment happening in my absence, and I was itching to get to my brother's so my holiday could start.
By the time I arrived, things were buzzing. My nephew Sam had just turned one, and this was the first Christmas in years with an excited little kid in the mix. Everyone was poised with cameras and anticipation of the fun they would have as he opened package after package of unnecessary toys. Appetizers and wine were set and ready, dinner was on the stove, and everyone was excited. I blustered in all chatty from my busy day and entertained them with my stories of stupid husbands looking for last minute gifts for their wives. We had a lovely evening...opened presents, played some games and relaxed.
As the night progressed, I noticed I was getting a bit gassy and had a lingering headache, but figured it was something in the soup or too much cheese or perhaps one kolache too many. I was wrong.
About 3AM I started barfing. Gut-wrenching cramps and spastic shooting pain had me bent over in agony. Complete misery, I tell you. I took some alka seltzer and hoped it would help, but I puked it right back up. Merry Christmas.
On Christmas Day we'd planned to spend the day with Michelle's extended family. Her mother was cooking, always a posh affair; I think there was a rack of lamb and some divine coconut cream cake involved, but I was never to know. We were due to head over for lunch around 11, but by the time we were through our stockings, I was in a cold sweat and pretty much unable to move. My mom thought I was faking it and kept asking me to get ready, but finally she gave up, they gave me the phone number, some ginger ale and saltines and left me to my moaning on the sofa with only a TV remote to keep me company. I found some channel playing It's a Wonderful Life on a loop, and I drifted in and out of a feverish sleep to the strains of "Buffalo Gals" and echoes of Zuzu's petals.
About 7 o'clock, my family returned, all talking and laughing and smelling like cold. My mom came to put her icy hand on my forehead, which, of course, caused me to shriek and then whimper. Good grief, she said...you're really ill. I think she got me a sprite or something, but there was not much they could do for me, so Bob, Michelle, and my mom and dad sat down with some scrabble mix (chex party mix for you outsiders) to play a few hands of bridge. (My biggest regret about not being married is that I don't have a permanent bridge partner. And potential suitors must have an eye for trump games or they're right out. A girl must have her priorities.)
While the grown-ups table talked and exclaimed loudly over lost hands, Sammy, my nephew, was busy playing with his new toys. He was on the floor near me, and kept looking up and making nonsensical noises my direction. I couldn't be bothered to even smile. I just laid there like a slug stuck in salt, listening to the tinny echoes of the conversation happening across the room. After a while, Sammy pushed himself up on his toddly little feet and baby-staggered over to me. He was barely taller than the sofa, so when he stood by my head his face was about a foot from mine. And that cute little bugger reached out, grabbed my hand and patted it to try and comfort me. Then he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. Actually I think he licked me, because it was mightly slurpy. But I let that pass...it was a nice thought. And he stood there for the rest of the night taking care of me.
And I was still barfing the next day, so I got to call in sick for the day-after-Christmas returns and crazy-eyed sales frenzy. That rocked, too. Hard.