A chicken salad sandwich on wheat. Lettuce and tomato. With a side of salt and vinegar potato chips.
Iconic meal in my life. It was my go-to late night dinner in college. I often had late lab/writing classes in the journalism school and only after they let out would I have time to grab a bite. Usually at my favorite watering hole, where I’d pull up a stool at the bar, completely disregarding my mother’s long-ago comment that “nice girls don’t sit at the bar” and order a chicken salad sandwich. With salt and vinegar chips. And a cold beer in my custom mug, reserved for regular patrons. So so good. Comfort food.
I had a chicken salad sandwich on wheat, with a side of chips the other night for a late night dinner. But instead of the happy sounds of a bar come to life, my background was the sound of beeps. Pages. And the wheezed breathing of my little boy.
We had one of those infrequent but rattling episodes with Will, when a seemingly innocuous respiratory issue turned unnerving, with my kiddo having two seizures barely 12 hours apart, the last one so lengthy and scary that the paramedics were called and a trip to the emergency room taken. When you have a child with neurological issues, you simply don’t fuck around with things. We are so conditioned that I even have an old school backpack of Will’s loaded with things for a hospital stay. Pre-packing a bag. Not just for pregnant women any more.
Tests were run. Will’s health history was repeated over and over to various medical personnel. Calls made – I now have a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” rule for times like this. Time killed by aimlessly clicking a TV remote over and over and over.
It was during a rare quiet moment, when Will was sleeping in his favorite position – tuchus in the air, head on crossed arms, snoring thanks to the congestion – that the mister and I realized it had been a long time since lunch. I shuffled off to the hospital cafeteria, where I was greeted with steaming trays of food that had no appeal. Then I saw a list of deli items, which included my beloved chicken salad. Comfort food. For a time when I needed comforting badly.
And in the chaos and anxiousness of a emergency room, I ate my personal version of soul food. As much as I could, anyway. Situations like the one I was in have a way of curtailing one’s appetite. Great diet tip but I wouldn’t recommend it for the long haul.
Somehow, that combination of the chicken salad and tomato and salt and vinegar chips took me back to sitting on that bar stool. To my youth when my only responsibility was getting educated. Before shunts and seizures and medicines and my sweet boy were at the top of my responsibility list.
And just for a moment, it felt as if all would be OK.
We're home now, nursing that infection as best we can (damn thing is viral, so it doesn't appreciate the whole "better living through chemistry" concept.) Will is feeling better, as he's back to his usual antics -- a whole bottle of one of my health supplements and his favorite stuffed toy enjoyed time in the washer yesterday. I'm still recovering, as days such as the one we had on Sunday send me into a bit of caregiver's post-traumatic stress. To be expected, from what I understand. But as long as my kiddo's on the mend, I can deal with anything.
Been thinking about that chicken salad sandwich. A lot. But I think that it's best reserved for moments when I really need it. To feed my soul. An extreme special occasion, if you will.
For times when I need to know that all will be OK.