My baby turned five. My baby. My last child.
When I brought my last child home from the hospital, my oldest child was only four. Not to mention those two kids in between.
My goodness I am an overachiever. Or deranged.
I asked my last child what he wanted to do for his impending birthday. He didn’t even take time to contemplate all of his options before he blurted out:
Chuck E. Cheese!!!!!
Upon hearing his response a slow, steady chant erupted:
Chuck E. Cheese! Chuck E. Cheese! Chuck E. Cheese!
The other kids had joined in.
I remembered loving it, too. We would go as kids. We played the games. We chased the mouse.
Except I was not a kid anymore. The sweet, blissful innocence of my childhood, long gone. I could no longer look at Chuck E. Cheese so fondly. Now I saw him for what he really was.
The gatekeeper to germ wonderland.
I spent the next ten minutes trying to come up with other ideas. ANY other idea. I tried everything I could think of. I am pretty sure I even offered him a helicopter ride. To pick up his new pony.
He was not to be denied. He wanted the mouse. Nothing else would do.
The day arrived. Party day. We loaded up the kids and headed out. I was filled with dread. My son, only with excitement.
As we pulled into the lot I saw him. Right there on the building. His picture anyway. The mouse appeared very charming. Inviting almost. He was smiling.
Had I misjudged him?
But there was no backing out. It was his birthday wish. We were there to party.
I took a deep breath, reached for the door handle and walked inside. We found ourselves in a holding pattern waiting to be stamped for entry. We were corralled, if you will. Just like cattle.
It was now too late to make a break for it as the line was quickly forming behind us.
He had us in his clutches.
A Chuck E. Cheese employee met us with a huge smile. He was to be our escort. Our escort to the bowels of germ hell.
My son squealed with delight. Of course he did. He has been known to lick a handrail or two.
The kids scattered like….well…..mice. Our party was not the only party though. There were many, many parties going on that day. Hundreds of handrail-lickers were running amuck.
I watched as this kid touched that ball and that kid touched this handle. Had he contracted the flu? Had she contracted strep? Was anyone to leave here today with the Bubonic Plague?
I couldn’t rule it out.
I tried to relax. After all you simply cannot keep your kids away from germs. They are everywhere. Some places more than others though.
Like say……where hundreds of snotty kids congregate.
We partied for what seemed like days. Games and rides, pizza and cake. Even dancing with the devil himself. That’s right. Chuck E. Cheese showed up to party.
Look at that smile.
Then finally…it was over. The kids had a great time.
Once I Purelled the crap out of everyone and put them in the car, I was able to take a breath.
The party was over. Everyone was still alive. And now….we waited. What had we left with? No one knew. Would we be able to escape the ordeal without any infectious diseases?
There was not a snowball’s chance in….well….you know.
That was Saturday. Fast forward to Tuesday morning. At 5:00 A.M. When I heard the very words that I had been expecting:
Mom, my stomach hurts.
I was no rookie. I leapt to the floor and raced him to the toilet.
Where he threw up. Three times.
Except it wasn’t the birthday boy. It was his brother.
He was pale. I could hear his stomach rolling from outside his body. This was not going to be your average stomach bug.
This bug was going to be……epic. Like a six-foot mouse.
I placed him on a pallet by my bed (If you do not know that term please refer to your Southern to English dictionary). I could not chance him lying in my bed.
I had been burned that way too many times before. A king size comforter is not puke friendly.
I gave him a bucket and a cup of water, covered him with a blanket and told him to try to rest.
Five minutes passed. Just enough for me to get groggy again. Then I heard him make a break for it. He was running for the toilet.
I jumped up and ran as well in an effort to
minimize certain bathroom disaster comfort him.
Once my foot hit the cold, bathroom floor, it was too late.
I slide through the vomit as though I was on roller skates. I only stopped when the wall rammed all five toes on one foot, back into their joints. I went down. Surely all my toes were broken.
I screamed out into the night:
Damn you Chuck E. Cheese!!!
From my position on the floor, where I was holding my foot trying to work through the burning pain, I looked up at my son.
He was standing over the toilet. The look on his face made me remember that I was a mother. There was no time for selfishness. I had a job to do.
I pulled myself up and without any regard for the vomit dripping off my legs or the pulsating pain radiating through my foot, I hugged him.
Then I got a wash cloth and wiped his little mouth.
As a parent we want out children to be happy.. And when what makes them happy, also makes them sick, well we are there for that, too.
I hope everyone enjoyed the birthday party. Because this family will never darken the door of a Chuck E. Cheese again.
So help me God.