I am frightened out of my wits; and have such tremblings, such flutterings all over me such spasms in my side, and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart, that I can get no rest by night nor by day.
It is not a new or original idea that Jane Austen was just a teensy bit uncharitable towards poor Mrs. Bennet. Yes, she is a criminally embarrassing mother, every teenage girl’s nightmare, but her anxieties are real and her obsession with marrying off her daughters seems far more reasonable and realistic than Mr. Bennet’s cheerful indifference.
I’ve been thinking sympathetically of Mrs. Bennet’s much-maligned “nerves” this week as I have coped with all manner of tremblings and flutterings, simply because Bub has had a fever, headache, and earache on and off for four days. I can’t imagine what I would do if my daughter eloped with an impoverished militia officer, because all it takes is a fairly minor childhood illness to have me clutching the counter to steady myself while the room spins and lurches.
There was a certain sweetness to the first days of illness. Saturday and Sunday hubby and I spent mostly on the couch, snuggled up in pyjamas with feverish foreheads resting heavily on our shoulders. We watched Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, put up the Christmas tree, ordered the Festive Special from Swiss Chalet. By Monday, the pleasant languor had worn off, replaced by worry. Why didn’t Bub recover? Did he need antibiotics? And if so how would we get them down his throat now that he knows how to gargle?
For a day or two, I can enjoy the transformed personality of the sick child. In illness, children are affectionate, immobile, heavy-limbed. After four days, though, I began to sharply miss the mischievous boy who roars at his sister and races excitedly into the kitchen to tell me that our cat has just strolled into the living room. So it was with relief and recognition this morning that I said “Cheese!” as Bub happily held up a tape measure, tape extended, then clicked the button so that the tape flew back in with a satisfying snap. I had contemplated buying him one of those kid-tough digital cameras for Christmas, but I’m glad I didn’t: when he’s happy and healthy, a tape measure is all he needs.