My family became part of a statistic this week. Our daughters joined the millions of young people that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says have come down with the H1N1 virus.
Our daughters are much better now, and they're eating Popsicles without constraint. I wish the vaccine for this flu had been available. But we know that a few thousand other families have not been as lucky as ours to have such mild symptoms.
Of course, I can say that because I'm at the office today. My wife is at home with two sick children. I got to take a shower. I can keep up with the news. No one here at the office orders me to fetch them a ginger ale, with an autocratic air that the Queen of England would avoid, or clings to my leg like a shipwreck victim if I try to go to the bathroom.
Philo T. Farnsworth invented television in 1927. I think he must have had two children at home with the flu. There is no greater spur to ingenuity than the desperation of parents who need to distract and amuse sneezing, squirming children. My wife and I used to talk about literature and theater. But we've watched so much Sesame Street this week, we just turn to each other and say, "K is the Letter of the Day. Can you believe that?"
Our 6-year-old crawled into bed the other night, coughing and rubbing her sore throat. She proposed a Popsicle as the the best treatment. So a little after 3 in the morning, we padded into the kitchen.
We don't live in a quiet place, where crickets chirp and brooks babble, but right around the corner from a trauma center. Sirens come and go all night, along a river plied by boats and helicopters, and next to an office building where lights burn late. My daughter and I sat on the floor, slurping and giggling to be up with all the lights and sirens.
She said she didn't want to go back to the dark of her room, so I tucked her in atop a sofa, and stretched out below her on the floor.
"Who's still up?" she asked.
"Police and fire," I told her. "Doctors and nurses. I'll bet the people at the bakery downstairs are just getting in. Garbage men, too."
"Moms and dads," our daughter added, and when I thought I could hear her breathing slowly and sleepily, I drew close to kiss her goodnight. Our daughter whispered: "Boo!"
Do you think she'll remember that half as well as I do?