Marianne was feeling sick. Isaac kept waking up to hear her coughing in the middle of the night. By morning, he felt like he hadn’t slept much at all. His throat was sore and he felt sort of floaty.
He was pretty sure he was sick too.
After tucking the covers back around Marianne, Isaac put on his slippers and trudged down the hall. He could hear Charlie coughing. Isaac sighed. It was going to be a long day.
He called in sick and then called the attendance line for the school. Then he started cooking some oatmeal. He finished cooking breakfast as Marianne stumbled into the kitchen, looking half awake.
“Sick day today,” he said. “I called in to excuse Charlie and me. You probably should call in sick too.”
“My afternoon meeting is just a phone call,” Marianne mumbled. “I can do that.”
“Okay.” Isaac turned off the stove and dished up some oatmeal. “Orange juice?”
Marianne made a face. “Sounds terrible. My throat hurts. It would be like lemon juice in a paper cut. Throwing up orange juice would be awful, too.”
“Good point.” Isaac put the pitcher back in the fridge. “Would cocoa be better?”
She shrugged. “I think so.”
Charlie woke up late and Isaac reheated everything while Charlie sat at the kitchen table with his head buried in his arms. “I don’t feel good.” Charlie’s voice was muffled. “I don’t want to go to school today.”
“It’s a sick day today,” Marianne answered. “We’re all staying home.”
“But what if I still feel sick tomorrow?” Charlie asked.
“Luckily, tomorrow is Saturday. You wouldn’t go to school anyway.”
They decided to stay in pajamas and watch movies. Marianne and Charlie went to set up nests of blankets and pillows in the living room. Isaac promised he’d join them shortly.
After leaving the dishes to soak, Isaac pulled out his family recipe book. It was the one his grandmother had put together for him when he was finally old enough to hold a knife steady and chop vegetables. It was a huge book, and all of the recipes were handwritten.
It had everything from the family cocoa recipe to great-great-aunt Betty’s wood polish. Today, he flipped through the pages and stopped at the elderberry cough syrup recipe. It didn’t cure colds instantly, but it did seem to keep them from lasting longer.
He dug through the cupboards and fridge to pull out the dried elderberries and honey and cinnamon bark and cloves and ginger. As he chopped and boiled, he started to relax. Just the fumes were helping him to feel better.
He added a good spoonful of the syrup to mugs of peppermint tea. While they cooled a little, he popped some popcorn. It took a couple of trips, but soon he was snuggled into his own little nest watching movies.
That night, Isaac woke himself up coughing, but Marianne seemed to be sleeping better. When he got up in the morning, he could smell pancakes. He stumbled into the kitchen, yawning. Charlie was already there waiting. “I think I feel better than yesterday,” Charlie said. And then he coughed a few times. They all laughed.
The sick day became a sick weekend. They stayed in pajamas and watched movies and drank peppermint tea with elderberry syrup. By Sunday evening, Marianne and Charlie were feeling better. Isaac was pretty sure he was well enough to go to work in the morning.
“So, this cough syrup is a secret family recipe.” Marianne held up the nearly empty jar of syrup.
“I don’t know that the family recipes are secret. We just never seem to be able to share them. Something always happens, and we get distracted. I think it’s a charm on the book.”
Marianne put the jar down. She looked puzzled. “What book?”
“The family recipe book my grandmother made. The one with all the handwritten recipes.” It was right there on the counter.
“I don’t think I’ve seen that one. You’ll have to show me later.” Marianne looked out the window.
Isaac nearly pointed out that the book was right there. But, as he opened his mouth, Marianne was already marching to the back door. “Charlie,” she yelled over her shoulder. “Get the spray bottle. There are cats digging in the garden again!”
She ran out the door, and Isaac picked up the recipe book and took it back to his desk. He shut the drawer with a sigh. He knew that Marianne wouldn’t ask about it later. He wasn’t even sure she could see it.
Perhaps Charlie could? Maybe they could try a recipe from the book sometime. Charlie was certainly old enough to chop vegetables.
Charlie came running through the kitchen with the spray bottle of water and hurried out the back door to join Marianne. Isaac watched them through the window as they chased the cats away from the rhubarb bed. They certainly seemed to feel all better. The sick days were at an end.