It’s been so long (thank goodness), that at first Eli hardly knew what to do with himself.
He was surprised when I told him he wasn’t going to school, but when I pointed out that he could barely lift his sweaty, feverish head, he nodded on the pillow and said ok. He rallied to eat half a bowl of granola, and then flopped on the couch sadly with me after waving Ben off to school. “Do you want to watch something on TV, buddy?” I asked him. “Is there time for a show?” “Oh, there’s time for whatever you want,” I told him; the boys don’t watch much TV (none during the week, maybe a half hour on the weekend) but on days like this, I think of my childhood sick days, watching back-to-back Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ movies, and I’ll queue up movies for hours if that’s what the boys want.
Except by this point, Eli was so cozily cuddled up, he didn’t want me to leave the couch to get a DVD, so our options were limited to a few Tivo’d kids movies: Curious George, Babe, Happy Feet. He managed ten minutes of Happy Feet before declaring it too loud, so we looked at the Tivo list again: movies; Oswald; Peep and the Big Wide World; Bear in the Blue House. We recorded these shows years ago, when Ben was a toddler, but my children are creatures of habit like I am; if a show was good when they were two, apparently it’s good when they are four and seven. Periodically we hear about new and interesting TV shows aimed at kids, and I’m briefly tempted to record something different, but then I think how I would miss the somber opening chords of the Oswald theme, or Peep’s jaunty tune, and I doublecheck that Tivo won’t delete these old shows before we’re ready.
We settled into Oswald. Then we watched a Peep. I was half-watching, stroking Eli’s head, and reading the New York Times magazine section. Life was good. But then Peep ended and Eli sat up. “I want to draw.” Really? We moved to the art table, he picked up a marker and laid his head in my lap. “Eli? Honey? I think it’s going to be hard to draw with your head in my lap.” “OK, let’s draw upstairs,” he decided. I wasn’t convinced he’d be able to hold his head up any better upstairs, but up we went — and then he spotted his bed. “How about we read some books instead?” I suggested. “OK.”
I got out a stack of favorites– The Bunny Planet trilogy; Library Lion; Bread and Jam for Frances; The Bunnies Are Not In Their Beds; Violet the Pilot– and we climbed into bed, and I read, and then I told him the story of the day he was born, and then I told him the story of the day Ben was born and eventually he was asleep, and I took a nap, too, and hours later when he woke he was still sick, but a tiny bit livelier, and I’m grateful for our day.