I remember being sick at home as a kid all too vividly. The fact that I remember being sick is thanks to its frequency. Through age 12, I endured strep throat on an all-too-regular schedule. Like clockwork every eight weeks, a familiar ache in my throat began, so intensely raw it seemed that Edward Scissorhands was clawing it. Swollen glands and a high fever that fuzzed the world round its edges completed the symptoms.
My childhood strep throat days were bordered by FOMO – the fear of missing out
Those strep throat days — the days before my mother badgered our pediatrician into a tonsillectomy — are memorable because they resurface in puffy, cotton candy pink-swathed dreams.
My theory is that my throat was swollen and tinged a similar color. That’s what my father would inform me. He’d peer into it with his pen flashlight, a weak beam pinpointing past my inflamed uvula, down into the depths. With a tablespoon pressed down on my gummy, white-coated tongue, nearly gagging with all that was required in “taking a look,” I hoped not to throw up. Once the tablespoon was removed, I could pull up my quilt and get back to just shivering and feeling feverish. That was one of the highlights of the day.
Looking back on it, those cotton candy pink tufted dreams represent how I saw myself back then.
There were good times. My dad propped the kitchen TV on the cream-and-gold French provincial desk each morning, and after adjusting its rabbit ears, I could watch it all day long. Reruns of Mayberry RFD were followed by morning game shows, and a promise of I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke show to wrap up lunch. That was beef consommé with rice, or if I was extremely lucky, my Mom’s matzoh ball soup. A nap, and the afternoon spent re-reading Gone With the Wind consumed the day until dinner when the TV returned to its spot in the kitchen for the nightly news.
Being laid low by strep throat wasn’t all that bad, except that each time, the grade school and middle school years went on without me for a good week or so.
In that, COVID19 quarantine has a leg up on FOMO.
I’m not sure if I’ve had COVID19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. But a nasty flu-like illness back in February has me thinking it was possible. Nearly 12 days of the worst flu I’ve ever experienced makes me think it may have been.
I missed out on a lot that time, too. But now, as I’ve reached Day 40 of being holed up at home, the fear of missing out isn’t too bad. That’s because everyone is missing out on everything. On a FOMO scale of 1 to 10, with COVID19, we’re already at 26.
I contemplate the meaning of “hunker,” a novel word everyone has on the tip of their tongue. It’s very popular to be hunkering right now.
After 40 days of being a near shut-in, I haven’t been sick, except for illnesses of the psychosomatic sort. They’re running rampant, their frequency occurring nearly as often as people talk about hunkering.
But thanks to COVID19, my dreams are no longer pink and puffy. Instead, I dream of salad.
I miss salad. Or more specifically, salads in restaurants cooked by chefs that don’t consist of Hillshire Farm tubs of ultra thin Black Forest ham. As enticingly as I try to sliver it, the ham remains gummily wedded to itself, an unwelcome reminder of my pink, sticky, swollen strep throat.
Hillshire Farms tubs of ultra thin Black Forest ham are all I can get at the grocery store right now. They’ve clearly cornered the COVID19 deli market.
It composes an element of my elegant Chef Salad lunch. Other ingredients are whim-driven, the only staples being the pink, gummy ham and a quartered hard boiled egg. Then creativity takes hold. Shall I sprinkle the lettuce with crumbled blue cheese today or wait — is it Monday, the day I dice Manchego? The salad may have one mini pepper. Should today be a red pepper or a yellow one? Yesterday’s pepper was orange!
In COVID19 FOMO dreams there are shrimp cocktail lunches with a chilled glass of French rosé. There are perfectly seared steak dinners with icy martinis served on a white cloth.
I could haul out my tablecloths and swirl them over my dining room table. But the realization that the cloths must be washed and ironed chills the thought.
I miss hushed conversation from the table next to us, tinkles of laughter from across the room, as restaurant patrons regale one another with stories of adventures. More mundanely, I miss talking about what the traffic was like on the way home from work.
I dreamt of a dinner in Paris at the Hotel Lutecia, a dinner consisting of a tower of seafood and a shared bottle of chilled champagne poured by a seasoned waiter. Will we ever return to Paris, and if so, what will we find there? I’ve experienced Paris after a crisis, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. There were empty streets then, the marble-walled buildings echoing our steps as if in a mausoleum, Paris itself a quiet tomb.
I miss elegance and I miss clothes other than Jeggings and loose tops.
Days are spent obsessively cleaning and incessantly shopping. I am shopping for life on the other side of COVID19 and our forced isolation. And I watch Dr. K with amusement as he plays with Thing 1 and Thing 2, our new pets, robots to vacuum carpets and mop the floors.
It takes a crisis of pandemic proportions to see what cloth people are cut from. Do they whine about FOMO? Or do they chuckle and chuff a bit, knowing we’re all in this together. Do they find a way to be useful, to help out in some way that also feeds their inner peace?
Flipping through my closet, I touch clothes that are as silent as the marble streets of Paris. I stroke the cloth. Silk, denim, calico, and cotton pique. When will I see them again in my mirror? When will I wear shoes?
But there is decision-making, too. When at last we emerge scrubbed with anticipation from our mandated cocoons, my hair will be wilder and grayer. And I’ll be wearing a butterfly’s swath of color, a collage of dresses in which to float and swirl as I head out the door to lunch with the world.