Need some last-minute childcare for your under-the-weather preschoolers? Send ‘em to my house for a safe and quiet day. Anyway that’s what my little granddaughter’s parents did recently, nursery school being out of the question what with the fever they’d seen the night before.
The child arrived pale but cool. “What about some lovely toast with peanut butter?” I sang, – only the Jif had somehow been put in the fridge. “Watch THIS,” I cried, popping the jar into the microwave and pushing “start” – only to see a tall column of fire arise from a tiny arc of foil still clinging to its rim.
Snack at last in hand, we climbed to the small third floor room that these many years later still holds toys and children’s books and a crib, all from the late 1970s. There under the eaves we worked on several jigsaw puzzles, none of whose pieces matched the pictures on their boxes.
But the child was growing paler now, so I suggested we drop down to the second floor and get into bed. This we did and I read to her for almost two hours, only then realizing that the lovely toast had fossilized for lack of attention.
“I know! Chicken noodle soup!” I hollered and hurried down to the kitchen, where I found that we actually HAD no such item. So I quick cut up some leftover spaghetti, mixed powdered chicken bouillon with water, nuked it all in a large Pyrex cup, and proudly mounted the stairs with it, only to find that in my four-minute absence, the previous night’s fever had come roaring back to life. Down the stairs again I dashed for the Children’s Tylenol. Back up I then ran – this time to find my charge sound asleep.
“I’ll just tiptoe into the study get a little work done,” I thought and what peace I found writing away in there, with a little child napping under my roof! It was just like the old days!
Twenty minutes later, I tiptoed back to the bedroom and found it… empty.
I looked in the bathroom: empty. Ditto the whole second floor and the floors both above and below it. Had I lost the child entirely?
I rocketed up and down the stairs, caroming off the walls and calling the child’s name – until, on a second frantic pass, I spied her curled up like a kitten in one corner of the crib.
“No Tylenol!” she squeaked, but with many tries I did finally manage to get some into her down in the kitchen, where, in one corner we have a TV and a little sofa. On this sofa we both slumped, pulling on our sippy cups and letting a cascade of kiddie shows wash over us.
That’s when it hit me that I had not eaten a morsel in almost eight hours.
I walked to the counter and picked up the Pyrex cup that held that nice noodly broth. Thinking “Who needs a mug?” I tipped it up and was a half an inch from my first gulp when I saw it: a tail.
A tail right in the broth. And then the whole toes-up corpse of a wee drowned mouse who, somewhere in the quiet hours, must have also liked the look of that brew and toppled in.I uttered not a syllable but returned quietly to our joint slump, and the day ended peacefully.
So I’ll say it again: You need some pinch-hit childcare for your sick tyke, just send up a shout. Because truly I have got it all, from the rodents, to the missing-person alerts to the towering pillars of fire. 🙂