This may be the only January during which I do not repeatedly write last year’s date on all outgoing checks and permission slips. There will be no need to cross out ‘2020,’ because I am ready to move on.
Though my family has been fortunate to avoid contracting coronavirus thus far, there were approximately seven to 25 different occasions (dating back to November of 2019) when I was convinced we had it. The paranoid hypochondriac in me has been working in overdrive for far too long, wreaking havoc on my cortisol levels. My “fight or flight” reactions are completely fried, since the option to flee anywhere has been a no-go.
This seems like a small price to pay for getting through last year mostly unscathed, though I suspected 2020 still had something up its sleeve for me as we rounded out this turbulent year.
After doing most of our Christmas shopping in town, my husband suggested we visit IKEA in pursuit of an elusive gift. I jumped at the opportunity to finally flee New Canaan and embark on an imaginary international journey to fair “Sweden.”
The Scandinavian home decor oasis beckoned with its promise of discount prices, design simplicity and, of course, meatballs. We used the Swedish meatballs to successfully lure our son on an Epicurean adventure, filled with newfound delights and a change of scenery from his subterranean gaming encampment. A furniture warehouse never sounded so appealing.
Masked up, we filed into IKEA like amped-up toddlers at Disney World. That’s how pathetic 2020 has been: Ordinary retail excursions and the sight of bulk toilet paper elicit a kind of exhilaration that I’m not entirely proud of. During our jaunt, the luster of Scandinavian design and silly-looking made-up Swedish words quickly wore off as our son’s perpetual state of hunger reached a new and heightened level of torture. He needed IKEA meatballs, stat.
Sensing meltdown mode, my husband, a man of action, rounded up the car while I waited in the cafeteria line with our food junkie. As I was deciphering the offerings and carefully deciding whether I should also give the meatballs a go, I was startled by a wet dribble that landed on the top of my head. I instantly froze and assumed that some condensation had trickled from the exposed pipes above. Using the back of my hand to wipe the moisture from my hair, I was first overcome by the foul stench (even through my 3-ply mask) and then became even more horrified when I saw the color of the surprising slop that had kerplopped all over my hair, the side of my face and in my ear. All I can say is that I wish it had been HVAC condensation. Oh, how I wish.
Even in the worst of scenarios, and without moving most of my upper body (which was paralyzed in horror), I was still able to place my son’s food order. Don’t ask how or why I could think of food—victim blaming will simply not be tolerated here. I had yet to fully accept the fact that raw sewage had landed a direct hit on my head and that I was stewing in human filth. Like a true hero, my duty as a mother superseded my own physical and psychological well-being.
I am that committed to mothering excellence.
Had IKEA sold a Scandinavian-style multifunctional, well-priced guillotine, I would have gladly bought one to decapitate my own head at that moment. Instead, I ran to the checkout area and grabbed antibacterial wipes by the streams and aggressively worked them through my soiled hair as onlookers tried to gauge my level of insanity. After pulling all the wipes out of the container like a crazed magician, I grabbed my son, who was trying to piece that whole ordeal together, and fled the scene of the crime. My emergency flight response made up for lost time.
The ride home was challenging for everyone. I sprayed an entire bottle of hand sanitizer in my hair and in my ear, while my husband tried not to drive off the road from laughing at my hysterics. Marinating in sewage and shellacking your own head with Purell during a thirty minute ride is pretty unnerving, but the vile nature of the incident, coupled with the ridiculousness of 2020 in general, made it hard not to crack up. We all had a pretty decent laugh at my expense.
2020 definitely did a number on everyone this year. Just count yourself lucky that it didn’t do this number on you. I’ll take this one last hit for the (quaran)team—maybe it’s a sign of good luck for 2021.