The sloshy nose gallops again…


Because Dada is traveling, J’s cold has returned.  Well, no, that’s not the actual reason why it decided to make a comeback.  Let’s say that Dada being away is the feather that decorates this whole thing and makes it extra special.  I think the cold decided to come back because it’s been colder than it had been last week (when J started getting better,) it was misty-snowy/snowy-misty and cloudy all day, and J marched home sans chapeaux from the bus.

I admit that, as we were slowly making our way up the hill, I could hear my great-aunts clicking their tongues and saying “Ave María, nena…don’t you know that if your head gets cold you catch a cold????  How many times do we have to tell you not to go out in the sereno?”

Let me take a moment to explain sereno because it is a concept that has long stumped many a person who meets me, hears a reference to it and then receives a shrug and a “you know…sereno?”  Sereno is a mysterious substance that is a combination of cold air that isn’t really cold and wet air that isn’t wet enough to be substantial and…well…felt.  It’s not mist.  No, please, don’t confuse it with mist.  In fact, it’s a lot more mystical than that and it is such an elusive substance-that-isn’t-a-substance that my great-aunts (who were warned about it by their aunt who was warned about it by her aunts and so on possibly all the way back to the time when our family converted from being Jews to being Catholic so they didn’t have to leave Spain in 1492) would simply say “vas a coger sereno” (you’re going to catch sereno) as if some sort of horrible fate awaited out there.  Sereno could happen at any time of the year: the hottest evening in summer, the middle of a drought, during a hurricane if you happened to step out of the confines of a tightly secured space…

I have spent YEARS not believing in sereno and thumbing my nose at it.  This task was easier and more rewarding when I didn’t have children who, for some inexplicable reason, would be sick for no apparent reason after being “exposed.”  I have tried to rationalize it, but I’ve discovered that the sereno effect usually grabs hold of whomever is exposed to it when a) all the cold medicine is expired, b) the doctor is out of town, c) urgent care closed for the night two minutes ago, d) it’s a long weekend or one of those weeks with a holiday in the middle of it when everyone leaves and you can’t reach them, or e) the routine has been re-established after a brief alteration and you really don’t want to deal with a sudden jarring of your peace and quiet.  Thanks, I’ll take “e” for the win!!!!

J’s nose is not the most delicate feature on his face.  It is a sturdy nose.  It is far from elegant, but it is a good-looking nose that adds character and some humor to his handsome face.  J’s nose is also not properly trained to blow mucus out and requires highly-trained mom to retrieve whatever is in the farthest depths of his sinuses so that he can breathe.  J with a stuffy nose, with sinus congestion of the kind that gives a mere mortal a headache, turns into a 200-plus pound version of Jennifer Beals doing her thing to Maniac in Flashdance.  I have tried to explain that windmill-arms and quick-as-lightning stomping isn’t conducive to me doing the job properly, but we all know that J is not interested in those details.  Menial they may be to him, but I still have to try to persuade him to stay put and let me decongest his nose.

The thermometer has been taken out of its case, and it says that he has a bit of temperature, but not enough to warrant running.  He is tired, and so am I.  He is congested, but that has been, on and off, the case for the past week.  It’s just a cold, I know, and I really shouldn’t worry about a little nasal congestion.  The thing is that I know he hates missing school when he thinks he’s fine.  The other thing is that he has a lot of gas because he’s breathing through his mouth.  The third thing is that he won’t turn off the fans (which we’ve TRIED, trust me…I don’t know what else to do to convince him that it’s not helpful in the least.)  The fourth thing is…he feels miserable and it shows.  Miserable J, especially when it’s because of something that I could have possibly prevented by insisting that he put his hats on walking home this afternoon, is something that crushes me.

So…I had TGG take down the PECS for BACKPACK and BUS, and searched for the phone number for the bus driver (and didn’t find it, thank you…I could have SWORN I had it programmed into the phone, but NO!)  I left a voice message for the teacher.  I applied a thick layer of Vicks to every body part that might benefit from it (don’t ask…that’s another Puerto Rican thing…Vicks…on the soles of the feet, on the bridge of the nose, on the chest, on the neck, on the back…) and gave him medication to help the congestion go away.  J looked at me like I am the worst vile betrayer known to mankind, and I tucked him in and told him I’d do my best to send him to school tomorrow…

Dada called shortly after this, and I poked my head into J’s room so he could hear Dada’s voice and say GOOD NIGHT.  (For the record, he sounded like a goose.  Even Dada told him that: “poor J!  You sound like a goose, baby boy!”)  J sniffled loudly and hoarsely said BYE, dismissing the caller and the person holding the phone.  I took the phone into TGG’s room and put Dada on speakerphone.  “What happened?  He seemed fine this morning!”  TGG didn’t miss a beat from his Minecraft game and said “yeah, you’re right.  He was all happy and feeling better.”  I said I thought he was better when he got home from school, and right about the time we were going to make dinner his nose started to sound like what a lava lamp looks like.

It was then that, in unison and without a single shred of sarcasm in their voices, Dada and TGG said “SERENO!!!!”  And somewhere up in the cushiest clouds up in Heaven, my great-aunts (and their coffee klatch of generation upon generation of aunts) started laughing…



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