I had been looking forward to spending yesterday afternoon with two special “mothers of brothers”, my college roommates,  their sons and husbands.  Sue had called me a few weeks ago to set the date.  Danielle would be making the trip from Short Hills to Pennsylvania for an afternoon play date (for the boys), football (for the husbands)  and gab fest (for us).  So I was a bit worried when my cell phone rang and Sue’s number popped up at T- 2 hours.  Her oldest son, Jake was sent home from Sunday school not feeling well.  The symptoms:  a low grade fever and a sore throat.    The get together was at Sue’s house.

Last year my response would have been:  “And you’re calling me because…?”  You see, I am perhaps the opposite of a germ-a-phobe.  I actually believe that it is most often the people who walk around with hand sanitizer in their bags that get sick.  My refusal to engage in overzealous hygiene has served my kids well; I’d like to think they have built up an immunity to most sicknesses because of their exposure to, not fear of, the common germ.  Last year, I would have shrugged my shoulders and we all would have shown up with bells on.   Maybe I would have reminded the kids not to lick each other, if I remembered.

 But that was last year.

This year, all sorts of alarms went off — and I heard the squeals of little piggies in the far corner of my mind.   The campaign to scare people (right or wrong) had actually worked on me.   All the signs that show the proper way to cover your cough with your elbow, all the notes that were sent from the school about keeping sick kids home, all the work notices and news articles about the high rate of infection had taken hold of me.  As if brainwashed, I felt I had no other choice but to respond:  

 “I can’t bring my kids, but I’ll still come.”

I immediately felt like s—t going alone.  Sue understood. She knew that I wasn’t one of those hyper parents.  She isn’t either.  That is why she called to let me know in the first place.  Last year, she admitted, she may not have said anything at all and dosed Jake up with Advil and no one would have been any wiser.  (I would have done the same.)  But this year is different and we are all trying to be smarter.

A few hours later, at T-1 she called back.  Jake had gotten a strep test which was positive.  It wasn’t H1N1.  Still possibly contagious but not airborne.  Danielle was still coming with her brood.  Hmm.  I pondered but told her I would still be there alone. She understood, but I felt even s—ttier.

I felt bad because I let my fears get the best of me and change my plans.  I wanted to see my dear friends; I wanted my family to be with me.  Chances of the boys getting strep were definitely there; but not guaranteed.  It would be months before we would be together again.  And it wasn’t the evil swine flu.

I called Sue back.  We were all coming.  She cheered.  I smiled.  It was a great afternoon.  We caught up on months of our lives, reminisced about years past, and made plans for our next get together.   The boys had fun, played outside, and we all ate yummy food off our own forks.  I told the boys not to lick each other.  It felt like, perhaps, the healthiest part of our weekend.

I wouldn’t have brought the kids if we thought Jake had swine flu.  The warnings have worked.  I’m adequately scared.  But if anyone in the family gets strep, I’ll be the first to say it was completely worth it.

Can you tell which brother is sick?

Can you tell which brother is sick?

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