March 03, 2003

My new club

I know them now by sight. At the grocery store, at the pharmacy, in the driver's seat of their SUVs. They are the women whose jaw muscles are lax--their stares are fixed straight ahead, some kind of zombie determination propelling them through the day, no other reason than to get to the end of it.

These are strep moms. I am one now too.

This is Jenna's second round with strep throat in the last month. This means it is the second or third trip to the doctor's or urgent care in as many weeks. More antibiotics, more new toothbrushes, more nebulizer treatments, more motrin, more soup, more sprite, more popsicles, more videos, more crayons, more thermometers, more bed changes, more luke warm baths, more energetic rebounds, more trying to keep the animals out of the house, more unrest, more sleep-interrupted nights, more triaminic, more throat spray, more lip balm, more kleenex, more phone calls, more trying to work somewhere in between it all, more guilt.

I'm not alone. I see them. Sometimes I talk to them. Like last night at 9:30 at Eckerds. I saw her sitting in the chair by the pharmacy--remembered her from urgent care a couple hours earlier. I say hi. She says, Hi, I remember you. I say, I remember you too--how is your son? She says, Strep. I say, my daughter too. She says he is on round 3 with it, that he gets it so often the doctors want to remove his tonsils. I shiver for her, and wonder when our doctor will lay that one on us--no thank you.

I tell her I'm tired. She says, I know, me too. She is probably ten years older than me, but our faces look just the same. The condition is timeless, ageless. You can be 20, 30, 40, 50 and look just like us. Jaw muscles too tired to show expression. Mouth sagging in an unattractive frown. Downturned lips. Heavy eyebrows. Dark circles under our eyes.

Strep moms. There's no mistaking us.