A few weeks ago, a cold worked its way through my family. Then my 4 year-old spiked a fever. Then my 8 year-old came down with the stomach bug. Another day at home, disinfecting the puke from her bedroom carpet (does any other smell permeate quite so much?), and praying the rest of the family wasn’t hours away from heaving over the toilet.
Ugh. It’s February. The bleakest month in New England, and if you live on an island in New England, multiply that by four. February in Martha’s Vineyard means shuttered shops, empty restaurants on a Saturday night, and way too much time inside. February means letters home from the school nurse alerting you to an outbreak of the flu, stomach bug, strep, Coxsackievirus virus, lice, you can go ahead and fill in the blank. The letter always seems to arrive as my kids are eating something that doesn’t require utensils, and I realize I forgot to tell them to wash their hands when they got home from school. They smile as they lick the germs from their fingers, mouths glistening with butter and honey.
The past few weeks have been a bitter reminder of how precarious the work-family balance can be, and the winter months are the worst. Things will be going along swimmingly, happy healthy kids, busy productive parents, and then one little glitch will throw everything out of whack. It’s moments like these when I realize just how fragile our little working parent system actually is. When all is going smoothly, it feels sturdy, but when the wind blows too hard, I realize string, glue, and Band-Aids is all that holds it together. This is the time of year when I think about warmer climates. California, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona, anywhere but here. This is the grass is greener time of year, because I’d give anything to see something green.
And then there’s a day like yesterday, unexpected and unseasonal. The air is soft, and there’s no wind. The day smells like fresh earth and sun, something growing. I breathe in and think, okay. Okay.
We’re not out of the woods yet. Tomorrow someone else might throw up. It might even be me. We’re still held together with the flimsy materials from my daughters’ craft box, but the breeze in spring is gentler. We're not knocked down quite so easily. And February is only twenty-eight days.