Growing up, whenever my sisters or I would get sick, maybe like in any household, there was this routine—this minor rearrangement of life and the house and the goings-on that played out over the course of the sickness. First, and my favorite part, despite any risk that we might have been contagious, the sick one was never relegated to our bedroom to be cooped up with germs and away from the family. Rather, we would be allowed to set up camp for the duration of our sick time on a stretch of sofa in the family room, wrapped in a blanket, in front of the big TV, and close by everyone once they were home from their day at school or work. The diet consisted of chicken soup and tea, or Saltines, Jello, some pale, fizzy drink like Sprite or Ginger Ale, and of course the bowl of ice chips that our dad would bring, depending on what ailed us.
I remember those sick days, laying there in a haze, halfway awake, watching early evening sitcom reruns while overhearing bits and pieces of conversation at the dinner table in the next room over. As much as I relished the opportunity to play hooky from the nightly ritual, I would always feel a little like I was missing out. I would wait for everyone to finish eating so that my mom and dad could come to check on me, see if I needed a refill of soda, more ice chips or a cold washcloth for my forehead. And once the dishes were done and the homework was finished, my sisters would come and we’d all watch TV together. They would stay at a distance, but in the same room as me, keeping me company in my sick state. I might have felt achy and miserable, but being taken care of like that, I felt like new baby.
We all know things change when you grow up and go out on your own. Yeah! Let me tell you, when you live alone in a tiny New York City apartment, it sucks to be sick. There’s no nice, cozy sofa to lounge on (because there’s no room for one), no big TV with a million stations (‘cause cable costs way too much money), no family conversation swirling in the background, and then of course no one to bring the Saltines and soda. But if you’re sick, you’re sick and you have to just manage. So, I curl up in my bed and watch instant Netflix movies on my laptop (not so bad!) and I have to get the ice myself, though I settle for cubes as I don’t have an ice crusher like the one we had at home. And when I’ve got no ‘sick food’ in the apartment and can’t bear the thought of climbing down and back up those treacherous five flights, the deli is just a phone call away. What would I do without my New York delis? Yes, it feels a little strange making a call for crackers and soda but they’ll deliver it, stairs included, no questions asked. Not as good as being taken care of by mom and dad, but it will do.