Your hair looks so pretty

November 29, 2019

So Thanksgiving Eve, Emily texted me at work to say she had a fever of 102.1°, headache, and chills. I left work before 3, picked her up, and went to the doctor. It’s not the flu and not strep. But getting home after 7:00 interrupted my evening plans for brining the bird and making stuffing. And what I know about me is that interruptions when the clock is ticking really tick me off.

Thanksgiving dinner plans had to be adjusted to accommodate a sick one. We were supposed to go to Paul’s mom’s house Thursday to eat dinner after family pics at Old Salem. I wouldn’t want Emily around anyone while she’s sick with coughing a fever, but Paul’s mom’s cancer has her compromised. I took Em for pics, then she and I left and ate at home by ourselves.

I sent all the food with Paul, Grace, and Lauren, but I kept some servings for just me and Em. It was Thanksgiving so I seemed like we should set a proper table. I asked Em which China she wanted to use. She’s 11 and unimpressed by China. Grace would have been more thoughtful in her response, but Em just shrugged. “I dunno. I dun-care. Why do we have to use China?” I have several sets of China to pass down someday, and I thought I’d use the one I’ve set aside to give Oh Emily. “Uh whatevah.” Maybe I’d have been less offended by her response if she’d at least been passionate enough to speak it with an exclamation point instead of a neutral period.

I polished the silver utensils and a candelabra. I pressed fancy cloth napkins. I filled gold rimmed crystal goblets with iced tea. Em preferred to drink Gatorade right from the bottle. I hoped we could have a dignified dinner for two with some serious conversation. Who was I kidding?

She used the polished silver spoon to shovel all her mashed potatoes into her mouth at once. When she laughed, she almost snorted the potatoes out of her nose. Then the stuffing, bread, and turkey. 

She had her hair straightened for the family pics, but once we got home, she threw her hair into a very messy top-knot. At the dining room table, she took her silver napkin ring and mine, and put them on her ears like hoop earrings, because “whatevah.” I started taking pics of her trying to balance the napkin rings on her ears, but keeping one ring steady on one side made the other ring nearly fall off. We laughed (and snorted), and at least through dinner, she didn’t feel sick anymore. She looked so ridiculous trying balance the rings on her ears, and I said to her “your hair looks so pretty!” I wasn’t lying; she’s always pretty. But she knew I was teasing, and she laughed and snorted more.

Now it’s Saturday night and the fever is gone, but she’s coughing and hacking so much and her cough med doesn’t seem to be helping. We headed to CVS to find a different med with a different active ingredient. In case you’re wondering, the drive from the CVS to home is just long enough for Oh Emily to scroll through the hot jam and pick 2 songs that always remind me of her. Out of all the songs available to her, she picked Daya “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” and Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire.”

Oh Emily has watched older sisters navigate boyfriends and relationships. Lauren is sweetly affectionate and easily bruised, while Grace is subtle and measured and generous but cautious. I don’t know if Em has learned anything from watching her sisters, but I suspect she won’t be willing to take much crap if any is offered.

“Oh, I don’t know what you’ve been told
But this gal right here’s gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I’m gonna be because I wanna be
No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty

And she’s always been a force to be reckoned with since birth.

Looks like a girl, but she’s a flame
So bright, she can burn your eyes
Better look the other way
You can try but you’ll never forget her name
She’s on top of the world

I don’t hear her hacking cough anymore, so I guess the 15 minutes of drama trying to talk her into swallowing 12 ml of cough medicine might have been worth it. She was sounding hoarse at CVS, and she’s afraid she will lose her voice and it won’t ever come back. “Like…I’m literally…like…losing my voice. Like…literally.” She’ll be fine, like…literally. But even if she loses her voice, at least her hair still looks so pretty. Oh Emily!

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