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What Slacker Salmonella Taught Me

The stomach bug we caught was sort of a wimpy, half-hearted little guy who punched his time card like a stooge in middle management. He was just enough of a nuisance to keep me awake for 30 minutes Saturday night certain I would puke at any moment, trying to achieve the perfect placement of head, shoulders, back and torso, to chase away the urge. Which I did. I felt slightly seasick the whole next day with a painful little knot pulling my insides into a hard vortex at the center. Not the worst bug I’ve ever had, not the best, just the most mediocre.

Gordon had a similar experience.

“This is sort of what morning sickness feels like,” I observed. “This,” I said, pointing back from me to him and back again with my sharp little index finger, “is what it’s LIKE.”

“You said that.”

“I just want you to have a better idea of what I underwent for a cumulative seven months of my life every single minute of every single day.”

“Yes. I think I got it.”

But he really couldn’t. Because the psychological effect of morning sickness is so much more insidious than that of a stomach bug because you just don’t know when it’s ever going to END. And if stomach bugs were known to go on for weeks or months at a time, people would run screaming at the mere sight of Wal-Mart spinach. 

All I know is, if I were a salmonella amoeba, I would take my job seriously. I would lay waste my host with all the vengeance my evil little two-celled heart could muster. If being a stomach bug is all I’m good for in this world, why not really throw my microweight around? Maybe stick around for two or three weeks. Demand things, like cheese. Or hot wings, big time cravings like that. Then bam! Reject it with vicious repercussions from one end of the spectrum to, um, the other. Toy with my person is what I would do; make them believe the worst was over just long enough so they attend that engagement party or baby shower or hot date at Applebee’s. Then unleash the fury.

Do you worry about me sometimes?

The thing is, I’ve been thinking about my station in life, as it were, this week — maybe as a result of my stomach bug interlude — and it’s put me in a funk.

Or maybe it was my friend’s wedding.


The wedding, definitely.

She is one of my dearest longtime friends, a college pal, sorority sister and former roommate, with whom I chased an opossum from our attic, watched 3,000 hours of reality television senior year, and spent hours over bowls of salsa discussing the marriage potential of many a man. (There were, without a doubt, legions of broken hearts Saturday night.)

Sarah’s wedding was also a time to reconnect with other old college friends, like my beautiful friend (and also former roommate) Christy whom I hadn’t seen in over a year.

I hate that I’m about to reveal my ungrateful brattiness right now, but here it comes and you’d better get ready: sometimes I wonder if I should have waited to have children until I accomplished something big.

Isn’t that the most awful thing to say?

But here was Sarah, beautiful, talented, respected, now a vice president of a major Dallas commercial real estate company and on her way to the top of her field in an arena dominated by 50-something men. And she’s not even thirty. Then there’s Christy, who was just accepted into the FBI Agent training program, right as she prepares to take the bar exam in February. She also has her MBA. Did I mention she is going to be an FBI agent, packing a Glock and looking fabulous in wigs? (She’s as beautiful as Jennifer Garner too.)

I know, I know, who has friends like this? Me, that’s who. I do. You can see why I have a complex.

“You have the two best blessings of all,” my dad remarked over lunch on Sunday after I regaled him with the accomplishments of my friends. And of course I do. But all Sarah and Christy would need to do is make a relatively small decision, wait nine months, and then they’ll have the babies AND be big-time important people, and where does that leave me?

I hate re-reading that last sentence. But it’s the way I felt this weekend. Sometimes I tell God about the amazing and unusual things I could be doing with my mind and abilities just to remind him not to forget about me between now and the time my kids graduate from high school. I just want to stay in front of you, Lord, so you don’t misplace me. (What a terrible misunderstanding of the role of Mother!)

In East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote, "Perhaps it takes courage to raise children." (Perhaps, indeed.) In my case, the courage I need is to simply settle down. Relax. Be OK with “just” being a mommy. The courage to pursue parenting faithfully, wholeheartedly, unreservedly; risking a life of relative ordinariness, a life to which I somehow feel superior. It’s the courage to let God decide about things, to give my years to people who will not make me rich, famous, important or admired, but whose very existence might serve to make me holy, and ultimately, free.

Maybe that’s the point.