Please just make me toast and hold me tightly
WORDS | Petra Shotwell (she/they) ILLUSTRATION | Yi Jong (she/they)
a personal essay because covid sucks and I miss my mum
I’m a chronically ill adult, but I’m one of the lucky ones. My immune system remains at a mild-to-medium level of stability; it’s not often that I get colds, flus or stomach bugs that knock me out of action. Even so, I am simultaneously always and never sick. I even managed to avoid the infamous spicy flu for over 2 years – though in that time I had two surgeries related to the aforementioned chronic illness, so don’t worry, it wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows and healthy bodies.
Three months after I moved to Covid-central (Tāmaki Makaurau), Covid finally caught up to me and I was hit hard. When it finally got me, I went spiralling down a rabbit hole of self-pity. Getting all emotional about my mum not being nearby to rub my back, bring me peppermint tea, and make me Marmite toast. I couldn’t help but wonder: when was the last time my mum took care of me?
Like actually, physically, really took care of me? Do you remember the last time your childhood caregiver tucked you into bed? Felt your forehead? Gave you a dose of that goopy, orange, liquid panadol?
The morning I felt that scratch in my throat, I knew it was my time. I knew I was about to see that second little line pop up on my Covid test. When it did, I was straight onto the Countdown website, organising a same-day delivery for everything I knew I’d be craving within 24 hours. What would mum get for me? I thought.
Codral antibacterial throat lozenges
a 20 pack of lemonade popsicles (they don’t fit in my freezer)
Maggi two minute noodles, chicken flavour (even though I’m a vegetarian now)
Ginger beer (lots of it)
Marmite (just in case we need more, cause I know it’ll be my every meal)
Tissues (with puppies on the box of course)
Canned peaches, in juice
Green apples (for cooking with cinnamon and brown sugar, duh)
Later that day, when I found myself curled up in bed deciding what I would spend the week binge-watching, I was in a state. I could barely breathe, let alone get up and take a shower or cook a meal. So, boy was I grateful when my delivery arrived. When I say I lived on lemonade popsicles for a week, I’m only exaggerating a little bit. I’m talking at least four every day. Mum didn’t regularly buy sweet things when I was growing up, but I always knew that if I was sick, she would buy me a lemonade popsicle. It became something to look forward to when I felt myself coming down with something. Do I crave them when I’m sick now because they’re frickin’ delicious, or because the nostalgia of a popsicle tricks me into thinking about being looked after?
But it seems that all the Countdown orders in the world can’t replace the feeling of knowing that my mum will make me toast and hold me tightly when I’m sick. Being sick as an adult, not having an instant helping hand the minute you call “Muuuuuuu-uummmm!” from the next room – it’s a bit of a rude awakening. Please note, I moved out over six years ago, so I can call myself a proper adult. I look after two cats, keep lots of plants alive - and try do the same for my partner and me. But like I said, I just don’t get sick very often, and when I do, it’s the chronic kind that society just forces you to live through as normal.