The sound of snif­fling

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

It’s Mur­phy’s law, right? Those who can get sick just be­fore Christ­mas . . . will? For the sec­ond year in a row, my house­hold has been stricken with a plague in the sec­ond week of De­cem­ber. Last year’s was es­pe­cially rough, given Oliver was less than a year old and his op­tions for med­i­ca­tion were slim. He was not sleep­ing; we were not sleep­ing. The most won­der­ful time of the year felt pretty mis­er­able.

This year? Well, at six months preg­nant, it’s my own op­tions that are limited. You never ap­pre­ci­ate a good de­con­ges­tant un­til it is cru­elly un­avail­able to you, friends. Given what­ever I’m tak­ing is, I pre­sume, also pass­ing on to my daugh­ter, I’ve just been load­ing up on wa­ter and tr ying to power through it.

I re­ally try not to gripe over the com­mon cold, but this one has felt any­thing but com­mon. It’s been a week and a half since the tell-tale tickle in my throat ap­peared, and last week — the work-from-home week — was stress­ful enough with­out adding ill­ness to the pot. Oliver and I have not been our­selves, leav­ing my hus­band to tend to us in the evenings. An ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing task, no doubt, es­pe­cially when I’m use­lessly crashed on the sofa by 7 p.m.

My sis­ter was a huge help last week, but I felt guilty sub­ject­ing her to hang­ing out with me in all my un­washed glory. Katie and I shared a home (and a bath­room) for 25 years, but it was still slightly em­bar­rass- ing to still be in my pa­ja­mas by mid-af­ter­noon. I just didn’t have the en­ergy worry about it.

In not-so-re­cent his­tory, I would have been suf­fer­ing hor­ri­bly but still ap­ply­ing mas­cara to my wa­tery eyes. I did not — re­peat: did not — go any­where or see any­one with­out wear­ing a ba­sic level of makeup, a habit picked up some­time around mid­dle school. “Putting on my face” is a morn­ing rit­ual, even if I ac­tu­ally don’t ap­ply ver y much in the end. A lit­tle con­cealer, some blush, a few swipes of eye­liner and I’m on my way.

That rou­tine has been tested way more since be­com­ing a par­ent. I used to be able to time my morn­ing to the minute — and though my makeup habits have never been elab­o­rate, it’s true that I once spent more time on my ap­pear­ance.

But that all re­quires thought and patience. And time, for sure. I’m usu­ally lucky if I have five min­utes be­fore the baby is hol­ler­ing af­ter I get out of the shower, so I do the best I can with my limited re­sources and de­pend on lip balm to get me through the rest of the day.

My sis­ter un­der­stands this. We grew up un­der the guid­ance of our beau­ti­ful mother, a wo­man who doesn’t go any­where with­out her lip­stick — but never im­pressed upon her girls any un­fair stan­dards of beauty. Mom has al­ways been sup­port­ive of do­ing what helps us look and feel our best, but she never stood be­hind us in a mir­ror to “help” with our daily styling. She does not pass judg­ment.

In fact, when I de­cided to “do my own hair” be­fore fourth­grade pic­ture day, Mom barely blinked at the fi­nal re­sult: a messy top-knot cre­ation with frizzy bangs that is for­ever im­mor­tal­ized in my school year­book. I thought I’d done a great job — you know, at the time . . . with­out a mir­ror. But even I could see the pic­ture was a disas­ter. Still, my par­ents du­ti­fully cut out the sheets of wal­let-sized pho­tos, shar­ing and scrap­book­ing that un­holy mess with all the oth­ers. That’s love. There’s a sense of need­ing to be “cam­era ready” in our so­ci­ety that in­flicts such un­nec­es­sary stress. Ev­ery so­cial oc­ca­sion finds that one friend ea­ger to snap group self­ies and in­stantly share the re­sults on Face­book. The vain side of me is of­ten criti- cal of how I look, how I’m stand- ing, what I’m wear­ing . . . but you won’t find me un­tag­ging my­self or hid­ing out.

Why? Be­cause . . . well, be­cause this is how I look. I’m just one flawed per­son. My worth isn’t de­ter­mined by how smooth my skin looks or how im­pecca- bly my makeup is done on any given day. In a few years, I ab­so­lutely, 100 per­cent ex­pect to be the mother in the school dropoff lane still wear­ing pa­jama pants — be­cause I can’t al­ways get it to­gether, and that’s OK.

When­ever I felt the urge to apol­o­gize to my sis­ter for my ap­pear­ance last week, I took a step back to think: she’s my sis­ter. To say she’s seen me at my best and worst is an un­der­state­ment. She’s also seen me at my small­est, my ugli­est, my most bro­ken as a per­son . . . and will al­ways show up, any­way.

Even when her sis­ter and nephew are snif­fling and tear­ing through a third box of tis­sues.

That’s love, too.

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