Love and Vomit: An Ode to My Mother

3 years ago

After a busy week made even more challenging by the itchy, watery eyes of spring, I washed down deep dish pizza and a Benadryl with two glasses of white wine and fell into bed. (A doctor may not approve of this combo, which is why I didn’t consult mine.)

My dreams of sleeping in were shattered at 6 a.m. by my daughter screaming, “Mommy, come here quick.”

I stumbled blindly into her room, where I didn’t need my glasses to realize what had happened. One sniff and I was wide awake. Orange vomit on the floor, the pillow, the sheets and in my daughter’s cupped hands as she thoughtfully tried to contain the mess.

There were no tears. She simply and matter-of-factly said, “I don’t feel very well and I need a towel.”

My husband and I cleaned things up and spent the next few hours holding our daughter’s hair as she threw up into a trashcan. My thoughts wandered back to days when someone held my hair back, and I contemplated how things have changed.

Twenty years ago, I spent many a weekend puking. No, I didn’t have some weird illness. I was simply a rookie drinker, and the cause of my intestinal ailment was always too many vodka and grape Kool-aids (nothing says high-class like that combo). Any experienced drinker knows to stick to beer, thereby, avoiding becoming a victim of the cute bartender who thinks he’s being nice by making your drink extra strong.

I was a slow learner, though, and sadly my two best friends in college got hair duty. They never let me down so, of course, I don’t find it in the least bit surprising that my friendships with these two women are the only ones that have survived the challenges of time and distance since college. I still appreciate their diligence, their strong stomachs and that they never left me alone on the bathroom floor.

Thoughts of college naturally reminded me of my husband, who I started dating when I was 22. In the interest of protecting his privacy and myself from his scorn, I can't share details of the things we've seen over 18 years. The only thing I will admit to is that one of our very first dates ended with me suffering the unintended consequences of mixing Sudafed with beer while he ran through the backyard in the dark trying to capture my cat, who had run out the patio doors when I decided I needed a bit of fresh air. I knew then that he was a keeper.

The true hero here, though, is my mom. Any woman who's been a mother for a week knows that she's entered a world of horrific bodily fluids. My mom was, by default, the first person to hold back my long hair—and she had to do it a lot.

You see, I was an overly nauseous child, and my time of preference for puking was the middle of the night. Two nights in particular stand out. The first was during a sleepover when I was in third grade or so. I woke up and promptly threw up in the doorway of my bedroom, creating a weird and disgusting kind of hostage situation for my friends, who fortunately forgave me and never mentioned it again. The second involved my unfortunate mother attempting to clean peas and potato skins out of my hair with freezing water from the campsite pump after I threw up in the pitch-blackness of our vintage popup trailer. Fortunately I didn't contaminate my brother sleeping next to me.

So now, I will hold my breath and lovingly hold my own daughter's hair back because that's what mothers do. As I’ve learned through the years, love and vomit are often connected. One of the best lessons my mother taught me is this: Relationships can get messy, they can keep you up at night, and sometimes they downright stink, but the strongest relationships always survive a bit of puke.

Thanks, Mom.

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