Monday, October 5, 2009

What I Do Best: Worry. And Then, Cook.


I remember it as if it were yesterday. Darling Daughter’s eyes were bloodshot, her cough sounded like that of a smoker with a 60-year-habit, and her forehead was eerily akin to a baked potato fresh from a 400 degree oven. No doubt about it.  She was sick. As I rubbed her back, she attempted a weak smile, but ended up in a puddle of tears.  Within minutes, she collapsed into a deep, damp sleep.

I snuggled her favorite pale pink jersey blanket against her cheek, smoothed the sticky tendrils of silken hair off her forehead and tiptoed downstairs.

What a relief. 

An hour later, I tiptoed up to check on her.  Just in case.  Yep.  Still sleeping.

Another, somewhat more anxious, hour passed.  I checked again.  Yep.  Still dozing.  I turned to leave.  But wait.  Had I seen her chest rising and falling?  I spin back around, fighting back ridiculous worries.  Yep.  Definitely breathing. 

Or was she?  I inched closer.  I couldn’t tell.  The blanket was moving, wasn’t it?  Or were my eyes are playing tricks on me?

I chastised myself for being so paranoid.  But what if … ?  I’d never forgive myself.

I edged closer.  I considered getting a mirror.  In old movies, that’s what they do.  If the person is breathing, even slightly, their breath fogs the mirror. 

Have mercy.  What was I thinking?  Was I thinking at all?  I’d never seen that in a movie.  I’d only heard about it.

So.  Breathing or not?

I edged closer still.  I couldn’t decide.  Time to panic?  Or time to tiptoe my crazy butt and crazier thoughts back down the stairs?

Then, without warning, DD shifted her legs.  Slightly.  I recoiled as if struck.  My heart felt as if it were trying to exit my body.  Yep.  Definitely breathing.  Humiliated, I slinked downstairs while DD slumbered on, blissfully unaware of the preposterous thoughts of the woman who gave birth to her.

When our kids are babies, we parents can scarcely stop worrying about them.  But so far as I can tell, as the kids get older, those worries don’t cease.  The scene I just described is from last week, when 12-year-old DD had the flu.  The only difference between my parental worries now and when she was a baby is that maybe I don’t show my panic as much now.  Maybe.

Worrying is what we parents do best.  We worry when they’re sick.  We worry when they might get sick.  We worry when they’re with a sitter.  We worry when they’re so old they don’t need a sitter. We worry when they don’t eat.  We worry that they eat too much junk.  We worry when they don’t get perfect grades.  We worry that they’re working too hard to get perfect grades.  We worry when they’re “out.”  We worry when they’re "in" and everyone else is "out."  We worry when they worry. We worry they don’t worry enough.

It’s exhausting.

It’s been a week since DD was sick, and although she still has a lingering cough, I feel like I’m also recovering, trying to make sure she gets ample rest, hydration, and of course, nutrition.

As her appetite returned, we started back with bland food.  But “bland” doesn’t mean “tasteless.”  Even something as basic as rice can be something special.  And when I prepared this Thyme-Scented Lemon Rice last week, I got a genuine smile from DD -- and no tears.

Plainly, we’re both well on the road to recovery.  Wonder what I'll worry about next.

Thyme-Scented Lemon Rice

1 cup raw rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 lemon, zested
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 springs of fresh thyme
juice of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon butter

Combine rice, broth, lemon zest, salt and thyme in a 2-quart, lidded saucepan.  With lid off, bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn heat down to low, put lid on and cook (without stirring) 13 minutes.  When rice is done, remove thyme springs, fluff gently with a fork, and stir in lemon juice and butter.  Serve hot.
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