In 2008 I took part in a creative writing workshop that explored the genre of memoir writing. At that time, I'd only written fiction, so stepping outside my comfort zone was exciting and nerve-wracking. Adding to the challenge was the fact that two of the writers taking part in the workshop were hilarious women well-known for their quick humor and funny storytelling styles. One assignment was to write a short comedic piece based on something that happened in our homes. I'm not a comedic writer! But luckily for me, (but not so much for my son), something had happened the night before and became the subject of my workshop homework:
Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Uncontrollable laughter had broken out, the kind that is almost silent except for the occasional snort that perpetuates the hilarity. Still seated around the table, my husband and I, and our two kids had just come to the end of a meal when it happened.
Mealtimes are reverent moments in my household. My husband is French, so for him partaking in a meal involves careful attention to detail and certain protocol. It is insulting to his palette to eat fruit during the same course as the meat. And there is no going back to the meat course once the fruit has been served. I, thankfully, LOVE to cook, and was a willing student under the tutelage of my mother-in-law in the early years of my marriage when she worried that her son would suffer a life-sentence of American fare. What some consider gourmet dishes are mainstays of my daily menus. I am also an avid advocate of eating healthy and exercising, and many heavy sauces and butter-soaked recipes clash with my idea of sane nourishment. So, careful planning goes into each repast, from leisurely weekend meals to time-pressed weekday meals, to ensure a balance of nutrition and taste.
This particular evening, I had chosen a side dish of sliced zucchini, lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic. My daughter, who is always in a rush for dessert, complained about the vegetable throughout the entire meal.
"This broccoli doesn't look right," she whined.
"It's zucchini and it's delicious. Just eat it."
"It's BROWN," she said.
"It's a little seared. It has more flavor that way. Just eat it."
She pushed it around her plate with her fork. She sighed. "It's gross and mushy." Oh, for heaven's sake. I tried to ignore her.
My son was drinking from his water glass, when suddenly he started to cough. It was one of those coughs that comes from deep in the throat, and seems to have mixed along the way with a burp. His face turned red and his violent coughs would not allow him time to get a breath. My husband thought he was choking, but my mother instincts quickly ruled that possibility out. Just as I knew intuitively that he wasn't choking, I also knew the boy was going to throw up. I knew it, and I didn't want it to happen on my table.
I sprang from my chair and grabbed Cody by the back of the neck, pulling him to his feet with my other hand. I was racing the vomit's arrival, and in the panic lost track of the next installment of my plan. Where should I allow him to vomit? The trash can!... No, no good. He'll have to angle the vomit's trajectory and it'll wind up all over the place. I turned Cody with the back of his neck. The sink! Perfect! I half dragged the choking mess of a boy, a bit surprised that he hadn't heaved by now. Once he was safely held over the kitchen sink, what turned out to be a vomit-free coughing fit subsided. I kept him bent over for safe measure a few moments more, until he finally said, "God, Mom, let me go!" At this point I checked him out properly, making sure he was indeed ok, and gave him a loving escort back to the table.
Everyone asked him if he was alright, and my husband shared how frightened he had been that Cody might have been choking. Cody wiped his still teary eyes with his sleeve and reassured everyone that he was feeling better. My husband said, "You must have swallowed sideways, or something."
My daughter mumbled, "It was probably the broccoli."
She delivered the comic relief that diffused the whole drama, and we roared!