About an hour before the concert, and just after our regular doctor’s office closed, my husband started running a fever, and his head started to hurt worse than that time he fell off his bike.
Guess which one of the four of us never got his flu shot?
Instead of sitting at a school Christmas concert listening to a medley of songs from “The Polar Express,” I found myself sitting at a doc-in-the-box, filling out forms and watching a nurse stick a giant Q-tip up my husband’s nose.
Meanwhile, my son was back home, supposedly doing his homework in hopes that I’d be back in time to take him to the Christmas play that was to follow the Christmas band concert.
Except I’d just driven off with his school backpack in the back seat of my car.
My husband’s flu test was negative, but he got a prescription for some cough syrup to help him sleep, and a prescription for anti-flu medicine just in case, with instructions to wait and take it only if he started to feel worse.
“Wait, you mean I could feel worse?” he asked.
I drove him back home and put him to bed. My son did his homework at record speed, then I dropped him off at the school play while I went to the drugstore.
I got there one minute after closing time. A very nice pharmacist opened back up again just for me.
Bag o’ medicine in hand, I got to school just in time to hear Scrooge whoop and holler, “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!”
Much later that night, with the children medicated and nestled in their beds, I went out to watch for shooting stars. It was the peak night for the annual Geminid meteor shower. There was no moon. There were no clouds.
Hmmph. Nothing moving in the sky except an airplane.
I saw Orion, my old friend, and Cassiopeia and the Pleiades.
It was my mother who taught me to recognize the hunter, the vain queen and the seven sisters, the unchanging patterns in the stars.
I thought back to one of my earliest memories, when my mother woke me up in the middle of the night and took me outside to see a comet.
I sat, remembering, huddled up against the cold, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark. Maybe the streetlights are too bright, I worried. Maybe I’m freezing out here for nothing.
Then, there! Out of the corner of my eye, a shooting star.
I wished I’d brought another blanket out with me.
There! Another one!
I wished my kids weren’t taking sick, so I could go in and wake them up and bring them outside with me, in the middle of this cold, clear night when the stars were falling.
The meteors came more quickly. Most of them came short and fast, but a few left spectacularly long trails.
I wished my mother was there next to me.