Mama Bear Takes on the Swine Flu

Originally posted May 19, 2009

(Author’s note: This originally was published by The Kane County Chronicle May 1, 2009, and was posted here later that day, but ‘fell off.’ I’m reposting it, but don’t worry: it’s ‘old news.’)

Never before have I felt compelled to buy one of those darned medical masks.

I guess the Anthrax scare and Avian Flu never quite got my dander up, but then I heard about the run on masks happening in drugstores all over New York City in response to the Swine Flu outbreak. So I made a quick trip to the store. I needed dishwasher detergent anyhow, I reasoned.

Labeled “N95 grade” and NIOSH Approved,” the masks looked official enough. I debated for a few moments and then grabbed a few. Slightly embarrassed, I quickly headed to the register. I had no plans to actually wear one, but I wanted to have them for my kids, just in case.

Near the check-out counter I spotted cheaper masks, though, and decided to chill-out and buy them instead. Precautions are one thing, but hey, this is a recession after all, I decided. I handed my rejects to the nice cashier, who smiled and asked if I’d like to buy one of the huge, fudgy, nut brownies conveniently displayed next to the register.

“Uh, no thanks,” I mumbled, as I giggled and considered how one might eat a nut brownie while wearing a face mask.

I had a nagging concern about the “N95 grade” mask thing, though, so once I got home I Googled it. Turns out that it’s the ‘right’ mask to buy after all, if given a choice. Feeling a bit sheepish, I ran back to the store, by then figuring that mine were already sold. Sure enough, the shelf where masks are displayed was completely empty. On my way out I asked the nice cashier if she happened to still have the ones I’d given her earlier. She did, under the counter. But no, I still didn’t want a brownie.

The next morning, however, I awoke to disturbing news about the closing of the Rogers Park elementary school because of a probable case of Swine Flu, so my kids and I stopped at the store to grab hand-sanitizer on our way to ours. By now the brownie-pusher and I were old friends. She pointed out the latest craze – spray-on hand sanitizer – which she promised wouldn’t leak into my kids’ backpacks or desks at school. Hook me up, I said. But keep your brownie. She grinned.

Out in the car I realized that I’d need two more of the cool spritzy sprays for my husband and me, so I pulled up to the door and had my fifth-grader run in and ask the brownie-pusher for two more. She waved as Noah climbed back into the car brandishing the receipt. She’d written something at the top: “Brownie?” I had to laugh. That one doesn’t give up easily.

I packed the kids off to school armed with their handy-dandy sanitizers, feeling pretty good about myself. You know that “I am Mommy, hear me roar” feeling you get sometimes? My kids were ready.

Later that day I got the news that our middle school (Rotolo Middle school in Batavia) is closed until at least Monday, as is Marmion Academy in Aurora, where Noah takes swim lessons on Sundays. The news was getting worse by the minute. That does it, I decided. I’m not ready to break out the masks yet, but as a precaution I’m keeping my children home until Monday, too. (It’s not like they’ll miss taking the bar exam or something, right?) I don’t want to panic, but what’s a parent to do?

Noah’s already given me a few high-fives for being his over-protective Mom (at least this time) and even proclaimed today a ‘good day’ once he realized that he’d miss a social studies test, but Holly, my second-grader, needed a bit of reassurance.

She loves school. She already misses her friends so I promised we’d have a fantabulous time camping-out at home. We’re keeping it light and hunkering-down for a few days. We’ll make an adventure out of playing hooky, skipping soccer practice, watching movies and playing board games. We’ll sleep late, pop popcorn for breakfast and play ‘go-fish,’ then we’ll dance to loud music and watch the dog stalk the cat and stare at the rain. Again. We’ll grow weary of “go-fish,” get cabin fever, bicker and …

So, um, yeah, that brownie is beginning to sound better by the minute.

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