What a time of year to have the flu. And although Christmas has come and gone, work deadlines keep bearing down on me. Like the dying cowboys who tie themselves into the saddle to keep from falling off the horse, I have propped myself against my desk, determined to finish my push before the New Year.
I just can’t seem to get warm. Now, if you’ve ever been over to our house, you know we like to keep it a little on the cool side. I’m from thrifty stock and don’t believe in wasting precious resources like heating oil. So to survive the winter season inside our house, I put on a sweater. And long johns, and bob-cratchett gloves. Honestly, it’s not that bad. There were only a couple of days last winter when it was cold enough to need a cap.
But since I’ve been sick, the heater’s been on. And I’m not talking thrift-mode. I’m talking full blast, open throttle. And I’ve doubled the usual layers of sweaters, but I remain chilled. Sitting on a heating pad has helped. I’ve got two of them so I’m considering wearing one for a hat.
My little neighbor girl came over last night, around dusk, for a visit. I peered at her through the screen door, snuffling in a germy Kleenex. I wanted to groan, “Go away — save yourself.”
But her impish smile won me over, like it always does. I told her I had a terrible cold. It didn’t faze her. I told her I had the worst flu ever and I was sure it was contagious. She just looked up at me through the screen door and smiled.
“You need help feeding the geese?” She asked.
I felt tearfully grateful. If you know me, you know I have a tendency to be a little dramatic, but I honestly, this flu has had me barely been able to drag. This stuff has sapped me down to the core. Just the thought of slogging down to the goose pen and back had me feeling worn out. I knew I could make it down there, and probably be able to get everybody fed, but getting back up the hill was going to be difficult. Mama would probably drive by sometime around dusk and find me frozen to death by the propane tank.
But here on my front porch stood a little Christmas angel, appearing just in time to save me from a dismal fate. She could at least go for help if I was unable to make it up the hill. Maybe she could get the dog, hook her up, and pull me out like a dogsled. At the very least, it was good to have company.
“I’ll meet you around back.” I told her.
I had to put on my additional layers of clothes — insulated overalls, down ski jacket, a boggin and a scarf over the top of it all. I looked like the “Staypuff Marshmellow Man,” but I was warm at last.
It was still a little early for the birds to go up. The geese honked bitterly and decided they weren’t ready to turn in. They took off across the yard, in the wrong direction of the pen. Last think I wanted to do was engage in a wild goose chase. But that little girl faded over to the side and herded them back toward the gate. When we got to the feed room, I unlatched the door and she took over. She bustled in and dipped out a full can of corn, luring the reticent birds down to the pen. I watched as she sprinkled the corn and closed the gate behind the last of the chickens.
Then she came back up and fed the dog. I felt like a waste of skin as I leaned against the barn and watched through bleary, watering eyes.
Finally everybody was fed and it was time to go back to the house. She walked along chipping about how glad she was that school was out. I asked her if she’d been a good girl in anticipation of Santa coming. She told me that she’d not been very good, but she was hoping that helping me feed the chickens would push her back onto the “good girl” list for next year. That made me laugh and I realized I felt better than I had in several days.
The crisp air and the little girl’s visit were like a dose of tonic. I grinned back at her and laughed again. Instead of me giving her my rotten cold, the little girl had given me something — the Holiday Spirit. And that’s always good for what ails you.
Gentry, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.