Friday, May 9, 2014

Walking Backward Through My Mind

Jorge was visiting family in Florida recently and when Abby forwarded me a photo he’d sent of his view during lunch one day 
it reminded me of Ecuador, which reminded me of fish, which reminded me of feeling like crap, which reminded me of labor and childbirth, which reminded me of my children which reminded me of Ecuador again.

Way back when I was in labor with Leslie, as the waves of contractions became stronger and more frequent, my desire to have more than one child became weaker and weaker.  Siblings are overrated.  I’m never doing this again.  Never, never, never, never.  Of course Dean had no idea I’d made the decision we were going to be a one-child family because, since I didn't speak for about six hours, all this was going on in my head.  Not that it mattered.  He had about as much control over whether I was going to have any more children as he’d had over whether I was going to have any children.  But then, not long after I’d told the nurse, I’ve had enough.  I’m not doing this anymore!  I wrapped my arms around Leslie, and as the pain-free glow of new motherhood intensified, the memory of the past few hours instantly receded.  That wasn’t so bad.  I can do this again.  I just need to get that breathing figured out so my hands won’t curl into claws when I hyperventilate. 

A couple of years later, because my memory was still wiped clean of those hours of labor before Leslie’s birth, and because I was still blissfully unaware that parenting was a roller coaster ride beyond compare— right after I raised my head from the delivery table, glared at my dutiful Mormon doctor and said, How could you have done this to your wife eight times? — Abby was born.  Who knew 28 years later, the little girl who once didn’t even want to move four blocks to a new house, would move to Ecuador.

Four times I joyfully planned a trip to see Abby and arrived in Ecuador filled with excitement, blissfully ignorant of the lurching and plummeting that lay ahead for my stomach.  Who knew every time I visited I was going to get sick.  And that each time, I’d get a little sicker.  On my first trip the worst of my suffering was over within two or three hours.  Unfortunately it was the two or three hours on my way home during my layover in Panama where the bathroom had a constant line of women snaking out the door waiting for their turn at one of the too-few stalls.  Try telling your intestinal tract to wait your turn when it’s insisting you get in there now! 

A few months later as I prepared for our trip to Ecuador for Abby & Jorge’s wedding, I was so happy to welcome Jorge to the family that the memories of my little affliction in Panama weren’t even a blip on my radar.  There were a couple of blips during the wedding ceremony but the reception, where I politely ate every last bite of my shrimp cocktail (because that’s what a good mother of the bride does even though that mother of the bride really hates seafood) was perfect.  Since nobody else puked up shrimp cocktail later that night, and I felt fine the next morning, I decided I was allergic to shrimp.  And even if I’m not, I am going to use that excuse for the rest of my life.

A year later when we visited Ecuador again I stayed far away from shrimp.  But at one point I thought I was going to be choking down some fish because that’s what a good mother-in-law does when her new son-in-law’s eyes light up with joy after stumbling upon a remote fish stand where you can eat fish so fresh their big eyes are still blinking in surprise.  I’d been feeling a bit queasy even before we discovered that fish stand and when a very nice woman showed us how she prepared the fish for cooking  ...

... I began to anxiously prepare my stomach for this delicacy by furtively scoping out the best spot to quietly puke my guts out without offending her.   Fortunately she told us there was no extra fish for us to eat since she was expecting a large tour group shortly so I was able to postpone the inevitable until the middle of the night, and by morning I was feeling much, much better.

A year after that, memories of my illnesses once again barely a flicker in my memory, and again blissfully unaware of what I was in for, I was ready to visit Ecuador again.  True to form, on this trip I got sicker than the last trip.  Only this time I wasn’t just a little sicker.  I was a lot sicker, for a lot longer.  One minute I was sleeping peacefully and the next my knees were banging onto a cold, hard bathroom floor.  I felt like the snake I’d seen a few days earlier — one minute minding his own business, swimming tranquilly in the ocean, and the next, grabbed by a grubby eight year old hand and slammed, over and over and over, like a whip, onto the hard beach.  

During that volcanic vomiting, bed shaking chills, and fever, I laid curled in a ball in the hotel thinking,  I don’t think I can come here again … I’m pretty sure I can never come here again … never, never, never, never. 

I didn’t know then that I had taken my last trip to Ecuador.  Five months later Abby moved back to the States and six months after that Jorge followed her.  So now we don’t need to travel to Ecuador to see them.  But that photo of the beach in Florida reminded me of Ecuador and what a beautiful country it is, and how friendly and courteous and happy the people are.   It made me feel a bit sad we won’t need to go to Ecuador to see them again.  It made me want to go back.   

And maybe someday we will.  Maybe we will eat plantain chips and drink Pilsner on the beach again.  But it might be a while.  It’s taking me a lot longer to forget that last gut-wrenching illness than it took to forget the vice-like labor of childbirth.  Wrapping my arms around porcelain just doesn’t seem to have the same memory vanquishing effect as wrapping them around a baby.   

But once that memory disappears I’d like to go again.  Because I had a lot of fun there — when I wasn’t puking in a hotel bathroom.



Abby said...

Mmmmmm fish...I always have to mentally prepare before I partake. I'm sorry you got sick, especially the last time. Maybe you'll be ready for another trip in a few more years. Amazon? Galapagos? I'm in.

Art Elser said...

Yikes!!! They do serve something other than seafood in Ecuador, don't they? Or perhaps you just didn't drink enough Pilsner to overcome the fish? Or too much Pilsner?

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Your story had me wondering how you managed to recall that wretched pain? I tend to block past pain out. Yes your description of that place does show some beauty.
Do you have any food sensitivities? they can cause the reactions of vomiting you described.