Over Christmas break we had our family pictures taken. The experience was not wholly what it could have been, unfortunately, as I had been throwing up violently the day before. Standing outside in heels was extremely difficult for me-- but boy am I glad I did! I am perhaps even more pasty white than usual, but it's so fun to have new family pictures since we have seven- SEVEN!- new additions to the family.
I love my family so much. They're a pretty fun bunch.
I once had a dream that I was eating a piece of chocolate cake.
That's boring, you're probably thinking, why are you telling us this nonsense?
It's amazing how our brains can fabricate things; they pull from thin air experiences that we have never truly felt- flying, driving a motorcycle or salsa dancing- and manifest them in sensory experiences so intensely real that we can remember how they feel hours, days, or even years after we dream them.
In all other circumstances I would agree with you. Chocolate cake is not an exciting topic for a dream. Jason has dreams where he's running from the mafia or shooting machine guns. I dream about eating. But if you had tasted this dream cake, you too would be reflecting on it with greedy relish. It was cake that could never grace the mortal Earth, like ambrosia. It was cake that my brain had fabricated just for my taste buds-- rich, luxurious, fluffy as air, fresh as a spring morning and delightful to the very end.
I woke up in a pool of my own saliva. Hmmm... chocolate cake! I thought as I manically searched our kitchen cupboards for the object that haunted my dreams. While the malaise of the flavor still clung to my tongue, my breakfast tasted like cardboard in my mouth and I could NOT GET OVER THAT CAKE! It reminded me of that time in eighth grade when I had a dream I kissed the object of my boy crush for the first time ever. Wow, what a kiss! I couldn't believe how blissful, how beautiful, how absolutely engrossing and utterly perfect that kiss was. When I woke, I had a brand new perspective on kissing-- I couldn't wait for it to happen. Later, when I kissed that person FOR REAL, my first thought was this is weird and then this is nothing like my dream! A disappointment? Perhaps. But in my heart I think I knew that the dream kiss was not a real kiss, just like my dream cake-- which felt and tasted so magically real-- was nothing but a figment of my mind.
How is it that my brain can take something simple and make it even better than the real thing?
Sometimes the human mind frightens me.
But then I think of the chocolate cake that I ate once in my dreams- the most delicious cake imaginable- and the swooping feeling in my stomach as I'm lifted off my feet and fly high into the sky, and I close my eyes, letting the wisdom of my dreaming mind take over.
I constantly fear for all things pertaining to Winston.
There have been late nights when I have stayed awake, bundled in my robe and slippers, calling shrilly and in vain for him to come inside. I toss and turn in the night, imagining the claws on his scratching post to be in fact claws on my couch, my throw pillows, or my duvet cover. I imagine every hiccup and every cough to be an inevitable sign that he will throw up on the kitchen floor-- or worse yet, the carpet. I imagine him being struck by a passing car and feebly dragging himself to the gutter where he cries piteously for help that won't come because I am too preoccupied with worrying about him to hear.
Once, in the middle of the night, our knife block fell from a shelf and created a stupendous crashing sound. Winston, who was sleeping next to my hand, jumped with fright at the noise. Jason awoke with a start. I sat bolt upright and screamed accusingly in my semiconscious and paranoid state, "WINSTON!!!! BAD CAT!" There were several confused moments when Jason looked at me like I was crazy, Winston looked at Jason with an expression that might have said "save me!" and I glowered at Winston, wondering how he could have jumped onto the high shelf in the kitchen, knocked the knife block over and returned to a relaxed sleeping position on our bed before it hit the ground.
This is my problem. My anxiety is completely unjustified. Winston is not a malicious animal. He's never had an accident. He rarely scratches anything he's not supposed to. He no longer is interested in his poop. He's just a lazy, laid back, easy going cat. My fear has never been warranted.
Over the period of five days that we were visiting my parents last week, we left Winston outside with plenty of food and water and a very luxurious heated cat house (Thank you, Dad!). I was nervous but reassured. I mean.... he has a heated house. "He'll be fine," Jason said. "Yes," I would reply, unable to shake off the stories I'd heard of crazy people torturing lonely cats.
We returned from Christmas vacation to a missing Winston.The minute I stepped out of the car and there was no jingle jangle from a cat's collar to be heard, alarm bells went off in my head. Jason said, "He's fine. He's probably just wandering around. He'll come back." We unpacked our things. We contemplated dinner. Then a faint meowing came from behind the wall.
It was Winston all right. Scuffling around in there and sounding pretty desperate to get out.
I started to cry.
Here's what we think happened: Somehow, using his ridiculous climbing skills, Winston got into the apartment above us where our landlords sometimes stay when they're in town. Then he was trapped there for a day or two, possibly longer, with no food or water. The soot, however, was inexplicable. He was filthy. Completely gray. Did he try to crawl into the chimney (that is blocked off)? Or roll around on the roof? Or tunnel through the earth and then walk through extremely dense pollution? We may never know. All I know is that I was frantic, and have been terrified for him ever since.
Jason and I got sick over our vacation. Very sick.
This wasn't the casual sniffling of wintertime colds, but a particularly violent case of the flu including the things I fear most: throwing up and not being able to gorge myself on Christmas fare. Inexplicably, while tossing and turning in a fevered delirium, my mind would inevitably turn to food-- those chocolate milk runs where boys drink a gallon or so and then try to run a mile, or the red indian lentils simmering on the stove-- and I would beset myself again with a horrendous wave of nausea.
Jason was sick before me and was considerably worse off. His first day of illness was spent in the hospital, where he tried and failed several times to complete a coherent sentence under the influence of morphine. We were quarantined off from the rest of our family. They wore masks and gloves and refused to hug us. No, seriously. They really did. But it got better.
There are happy and exciting things happening in Jason's family. There are happy and exciting things happening in mine.
The holidays can hold so many surprises. So many good things, so many bad.
Watching Jason puke his guts out in the Burley Emergency Room was so bad.
Seeing Si smile at me for the first time was so good. Dancing with my sisters with our pants hiked up, watching Mission Impossible from the very front row, laughing, talking late at night-- it was all so, so good.
It seems like I always forget how deeply I love my family until I see them again.