“Sage told me how you thought he had ‘mimpendicitis,’” his kindergarten teacher reported cheerfully when I met her in the hallway after school. “It was so cute; I should write that down.”
I don’t know if she did, but in the interest of posterity, I will.
We were having a nice, lighthearted conversation, so I didn’t tell her everything: How the morning of New Year’s Eve had seemed so normal, with my husband at work and my son in his pajamas; how I’d waded through little gray ripples of annoyance to tend to His Highness’s demands; how he’d whined pathetically that he had a tummy ache; how I’d dismissed his complaint as one of the dozens he makes in the course of any given day; how the ripples of annoyance had swelled into churning black waves of guilt and terror as the morning faded but his pain didn’t; how one of those waves had almost swamped me when I’d consulted a home medical book and realized he was pointing to his appendix; how desperately I’d wanted to get him to the hospital; how his shrieking had shredded my heart when I’d propped him upright to prepare him for the cold; how he’d drooped over his chair arm in unsettling silence as the waiting room minutes crept grudgingly by; how our time in the exam room seemed to congeal into a sterile hopeless Now; how the doctor’s eventual appearance seemed virtually miraculous; how my irritation when he airily dismissed my fear was swept away after he announced that a lymph node swollen by strep was the culprit in Sage’s pain; how profound my relief was when I realized that Sage wouldn’t be starting 2014 in surgery.
Instead, I gave his teacher the abridged version: “He had a stomachache and was pointing to his appendix, so I took him to the hospital, but it was only strep.”
In both versions, the ending is the same: After a day or two of penicillin, Sage was back to normal. He had the energy to wheedle me into letting him have a pre-dinner lick of the fat rainbow-colored candy cane he’d gotten for Christmas.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked me after pausing between licks to contemplate it. “Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”
He held up his treasure to examine it more closely, and I watched him with tears in my eyes. He wasn’t exactly Hamlet holding Yorick’s skull in the shadow of mortality; he was a five-year-old who’d blithely skated through that shadow and emerged wielding a rainbow.
“Yes,” I told him, “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”