Life hands you moments. Some are wonderful. Some make you wince. Some mean you will never see cranberry juice in quite the same way again.
Tonight has been marked on the calendar for weeks. Our local high school is staging a production of Phantom of the Opera. We walked the few blocks to the school tonight as a happy foursome. Dorothy and the yellow brick road didn’t have as much skip as we did, as we headed off to enjoy an evening out.
I had told the kids this evening was the beginning of our Christmas celebrations, that we are going to do more and buy less – make a tradition out of new experiences and attending events at this time of year. When Kid1 asked if a phantom meant horror and was better suited to Halloween I should have seen the sign. I should have known.
What a production! The natural talent on display was incredible and in my usual walking raw emotion fashion I was getting teary at how marvellous it all was. At intermission I chatted up the mom who got our tickets. We were in the front row, the kids were loving it. I met a lovely piano teacher who shared her tips for making music magical for kids of all ages. I even chatted up my boss’s boss’s boss! I introduced him to my kids, talked musicals and cooed about the show exceeding our expectations. Turns out they were seated two rows behind us, beside the principal of our kids’ school.
There were refreshments available at the break. Both kids came stampeding up to me with pastries and cups of red juice. I thought it odd they were trying to force the juice on me until kid1 copped to not liking it. Neither of my kids like pop and this was cranberry juice with sprite mixed in. They’d rather have been drinking Windex. As we got ready to return to our seats, Claudia was complaining that the red juice had made her tongue feel fuzzy. I should have known.
Claudia is tough. She’s delicately put together, but she’s tough in a way that makes us proud. She bops through her days picking up bruises and scrapes never stopping long enough to whine, just continuing on in her adventures. She is up for anything and only wavers when she gets tired. It was now past her bedtime so I understood her squirming and holding her belly to be a manifestation of being out of steam. I should have known.
I did ask her several times if she wanted to go. I told her one sip of fuzzy red juice wouldn’t make her tummy sore. I offered her my shoulder to lean on. As the house lights started to dim a flutter of panic began in my stomach. By the time “Masquerade” was in full swing I knew I had missed my cues. I said her dad would take her home. The next few frames of the evening are a blur. Jeff scooped her up as she started to vomit, taking a full frontal hit in his lap. Dawson scored next, as he reflexively went into receive mode when Claudia staggered back from the force of throwing up. The two teenaged girls sitting to our left recoiled in horror and the show went on. Thirty seconds later Dawson and I were sitting quietly shocked and dripping. The girls were moaning, trapped between us, the puddle of sick, and a wall. Jeff was in the lobby holding Claudia over a garbage can and apologizing to the custodial staff.
I took quick stock of the situation. Front row. Centre aisle. Two families between me and the escape route, two songs into the second act. Puddle of sick in front, sick-covered kid beside. Traumatized teens to my left. I handed Dawson my (white) pashmina and he dried himself off as best he could. Like draping a dead body, I spread my (white) pashmina over the sick and watched meekly as it soaked through. I leaned to the mother on my right, said I was going to have to go, that I was sorry for the turn of events. She graciously asked if I wanted her to bring my scarf by later. I declined, but made a note to self I am not as nice a person as she, because I would never have made a similar offer, had it been her kid that barfed. I then made the commando hand signal to Daws to gogogo and we hunched and scurried to the lobby.
The student ushers were amazing. There were paper towels, empathetic and genuine ‘it’s okays” all around. It’s hard to explain the horror. You hate disrupting the show that they worked so hard on. You hate that your kid will be a topic of conversation of the cast – that she provided them a test of their mettle as performers (none of them even wavered, not one bit). I especially hate the feeling of wanting the world to know she was fine before we went – totally fine until the fuzzy red juice. Upside? I won’t have the usual guilt calling in to miss work tomorrow. Her principal and my big big boss saw her erupt. I can no more send her to school than I could wear that pashmina again.
Kudos to Jeff, who walked over a kilometre with a 52-pound kid hic-burping in his arms. Kudos to Dawson, who marched without complaint of the smell, speaking kindly to his little sister. They more than earned the 20 minute scalding showers they took when they got home.
After all that, as kid2 took up her hard-earned position on the sick couch, I rubbed her bony little back and told her I think she is going to have an adventuresome life, where she does lots of wonderful things and has many multi-coloured memories to treasure. She thought for a moment, then told me in graphic detail about the colour of her vomit. I think she might grow up to be a writer. She is very descriptive.
p.s. Claudia has a full-blown stomach bug. It is now going on 1 a.m. and she has thrown up five more times. She did ask how Phantom ends. And if I like cranberry juice. I said no.