Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Curse

My family's curse came to mind while I was working in the nursery last Sunday morning. Each Sunday, all of us workers, draped in our ridiculously large purple smocks, eagerly accept babies from their parents before the morning service at our church. I’m not sure how, but whenever the assignments are given out for which baby each of us workers will care for, I can always pick mine out before I’m told. The one with the greenish plugs of slime in each nostril, the loner who stares and drools, the one with spit up curdles on her chin—these are always mine. They rarely assign me the sweet smelling, soft curled sweethearts. Sometimes this predictable arrangement bothers me.
Sunday I got the one with tummy problems. She kept hurling slimy streams of throw-up tinted purple from her grape juice. All morning I followed her with a fistful of paper towels and a pump bottle of hand sanitizer, frequently applying the gel to my own hands. My lips cracked from breathing through my mouth to avoid smelling that acrid stench of vomit. I lived for 45 minutes on high alert for her hurling, worried that the other babies might crawl through her soggy spots.
As I soaked up yet another gooey mound of vomit, my dad’s words came back to me: it’s the family curse. If something bad or random could happen, it will happen to us. I brooded, If there's a kid in the nursery who is gonna produce purple puke she would be given to ME. Around the nursery sat half a dozen perfect angels, smelling of Downy fabric softener and placidly pointing at pages of books or serenly cuddling on the lap of one of the other workers who gazed on me with pity as I monitored hyperactive slime monster. Shrugging as if my assignment didn't bother me, inside I contemplated self-pity.
I'm tempted to embrace the curse as an explanation for the bad things that happen in my life. It does seem that the catastrophic, inconvenient, unfortunate or merely quirky seems to prey on my family frequently enough. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that Lemony Snicket grew up in my family and chronicled our misfortunes.
But just as I wanted to tear off the smock and walk out of the nursery leaving the sour smelling child to contaminate someone else, I realized that this isn’t how I want to view the less than beautiful parts of my life.
As a little girl, I was amused by nothing greater than to be handed a pair of child safety scissors, the JC Penney catalogue, pieces of construction paper and a bottle of Elmer’s glue. I’d cut out pictures of food and ducks and tables and flowers then drizzle the backs of them in the milky white adhesive and slap them haphazardly onto a fresh piece of construction paper. I’d paste until no parts of the construction paper showed. Only an amateur or careless collager would leave holes in the picture.
I guess in some ways I'm still a collager. Life, after all, is a collage of experiences, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant. If you remove the bad parts there are holes, the picture of life isn’t complete and not nearly as interesting. The bad parts are only a curse if we let them be.
Snapping me out of my reverie, the little hurler roll over on top of my feet and giggle up at me, reaching out her slobbery fingers. I grimaced at first, but finally grinned back and reached down to scoop her up. After all, I’d hate to have a hole in my picture.

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