For 48 hours my sinuses were a mucus factory. Had they been part of the Great Leap Forward in China (or was that the USSR?), they would have been awarded a gold star for efficiency.
I blew my nose every three minutes, quite productively, if you will excuse my saying so. In fact, I ask you to excuse this whole essay. Lady-like it is not. And yes, this very phrase is part of where I am going: "It is not."
In our house, Eileen, my mother, was a stickler for respectability. Being Irish, she knew the distinction between lace-curtain Irish and shanty Irish, and it was clear that of the two she preferred the former. Certain words were forbidden to us because of perceived vulgarity. One of these was "liar." We were forbidden to call each other liars—even when the evidence was clear that one of those three brothers was not telling the truth. Was prevaricating, in fact. Which in my book made him a liar. But I couldn't call him a liar without getting into even bigger trouble myself.
"Fool" was another one. I have been told that a passage in the New Testament cautions us against calling anyone a fool. By extension, I assume it also means don't aim critical words at others. But our Eileen settled for a literal interpretation: we could call each other stupid, or an idiot, or a moron—but not a fool.
With regard to respectability and decorum, one of Eileen's forbidden words was snot. Now, I understand her aversion. Snot has to be one of the ugliest words in the language—both the word itself and what it describes. Well, tell six raucous, word-happy kids that they can't use the word snot, and immediately the contraction "isn't" leaves the room. In its place is the other contraction: "It's not!" "Eileen, he said snot!" "No, I didn't, I said 'It's not!'" Dozens of times a week we would flout her rule, all while remaining within the bounds of good grammar. What thorns we were in her side.
To return to my own over-productive mucus membranes, as I lay on my sick-bed (sat, actually, since I had to remain upright or the mucus--it's not snot, surely--would drip down the back of my throat and make me cough), as I say, I sat in bed as the symptoms flew by: now a fever! Now chills! But never a respite from the mucus factory's production.
I often refer to my husband as a hoarder—mainly because I like to call a spade a spade. But during the course of that cold I forgave him his hoarding instincts because we never came close to running out of tissues. Every three minutes I filled another one. And then another. Thanks to his foresight, an empty tissue box was immediately replaced by a full one.
I have a friend who has tissue issues, seeing them as an assault on trees. In her house she provides handkerchiefs for those who might otherwise reach for a tissue. That's all well and good. But I remember the days of handkerchiefs, those days before tissues were available. I remember the importance of carrying a clean one, and I remember washing and ironing them. Let me tell you that when one is attacked by a vicious virus, one is overjoyed to be able to throw away the evidence, bagful after bagful.
Which leads me to the very strange fact that in Toronto's recycling program tissues are collected as compost, not as paper. The compost the city collects is piled high and composted for a year or two before it is distributed to city gardeners. Are you comfortable knowing that my week's worth of exceedingly germ-y tissues are now in the city's compost pile?
This was a virulent virus. On the Monday night I took a Sudafed to dry up the mucus factory temporarily so I could get some sleep. It's been a long time since I took a Sudafed. Either I've forgotten, or they've changed the formula. But it is now a mucus-dryer AND a stimulant. I took one tablet at eight in the evening and was wide awake (and sitting up, remember) for the whole night. I spent the next day, Tuesday, still sitting in bed in a haze of pain (overstuffed sinuses and nasal passages) and fatigue. I couldn't sleep for long because I would wake myself by coughing or sneezing. But I did sleep a little, overwhelmed by boredom. Next day, headache. Fuzzy and weak vision. Cotton brain. Where did this wicked virus come from?
And then it went away—not as quickly as it came, but I'm not going to complain. I began sleeping all night, the mucus factory closed down, and gradually my energy returned. It's not over (it isn't over) till it's over—but right now I'll settle for almost-over.
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca