Kathleen Norton

Posts Tagged ‘Boomers

When your kids grow up and fly the coop, you do two things.

No. 1: Change the locks.

No. 2: Scream, “Hooray! The days of icky kid stuff are over!”

That’s how it was for me. The youngest drove off on Moving Day while I pretended to cry and silently mouthed the words to the Empty Nester’s Slogan: “Goodbye kid germs, ooze and goo! It’s time to party! Whoohoo!”

And that’s when it happened. At the age of 51, mere hours after our baby had gone, I came down with the worst case of Pink Eye ever.

My eyelids were crusted shut like they were coated with epoxy, and gooey stuff ran down my face like a waterfall.  I was not exactly the hot temptress my husband had been waiting for all those years.

“Get the cotton balls!’’ I croaked that night from my side of the bed.

“Oh boy! This sounds kinky!’’ he  said and leaped up.

“Down boy,” I croaked back. “I’ve got Pink Eye!’’

When it sunk in that I had not given The Love Signal, his pace slowed to a crawl and he took his own sweet time stumbling around in the bathroom looking for cotton balls we probably hadn’t used since 1992.

I stayed in bed, tried to see my hands in front of my face and recalled all the icky kid things we had endured together.

Noses so stuffed up they had to be cleared with pliers. Buckets held under sick little heads. Flu splatter that required entire rooms be repainted.

But as irony would have it, my mind kept drifting back to The Never-ending Pink Eye Episode of 1984-1985.

It began on our annual holiday road trip from hell, a journey of some 300 miles from Vermont to Long Island, NY.  As soon as we left our house, the youngest had fallen asleep healthy and clear-eyed. But by the time we got to Massachusetts, he had a raging case of Pink Eye.

We pulled off to the side of the road and sprang into action. The good news was that we had managed to pack First Aid supplies.

The bad news was we’d forgotten all the holiday gifts for the Long Island relatives.

“Just great,’’ I growled while picking crust off the baby’s eyes. “We can stick a red bow on the Band-Aids for your Aunt Dottie. I’m sure she ‘ll be thrilled!’’

When the poor little thing could finally open his ickier eye, we spent the next few hours on the most useless task on earth: Trying to keep a baby from rubbing his face and spreading the eye gook from one side to the other.

This apology is decades overdue, but I want to say we’re sorry to the other travelers on Interstate 95 on that particular December day for the horrible noises coming from our car.

From one end of Connecticut to the other, the sick baby howled and his older sister screamed, “He’s gross!’’ while their parents yelled about the forgotten gifts.

We finally got to Long Island and knocked on the door. “Merry Christmas!’’ we shouted way too eagerly as we held a hat over the baby’s face. But my sister-in-law is a nurse and she could smell a sick kid a mile away.

“Strep or chicken pox?’’ she said, eyeballing the hat.

We confessed about the Pink Eye and about the  Christmas presents. This put us on the lowest rung of the holiday social scale: Germy house guests bearing no gifts.

Well, thanks to the nurse, the baby got better during the visit. But by the time we went home, the Pink Eye had spread to his sister. Over the next months, it went back and forth so many times the neighbors called me “Queen of the Crusty Eyes” and it took six years before anybody would shake my hand.

Ah, such fond memories. And they all came flooding back the night of Pink Eye the Sequel as I lie in the bed, wondering where that man was with the cotton balls.

It did occur to me that he may have packed a bag right in front of me and hit the road and I wouldn’t have been able to see him through my yucky eyes.

But eventually, he came out of the bathroom .

“Here,’’ he said, handing me a cotton ball at the end of a stick.

“I don’t have the plague,’’ I sniffed.

“You do in your eyeballs,’’ he answered.

So now we know.

The Empty Nest can be a lot of wonderful things to a couple of middle-aged baby boomers like us.

But it is not going to be icky-free.


Kathleen Norton

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