Two out of three of my kids are sick, with the dreaded Intestinal Yuck. One is emitting fluids from one end, the other from the other. And we have houseguests arriving tomorrow. (As usual.)
So my thoughts have turned to the lost art of sickroom management, because in essence my entire house, all three stories, every bedroom and bathroom, the kitchen and the family room, have become sickrooms. In the time of the Spanish Flu, we'd all have been dead already. We're substituting Purell for quarantine and contamination of our favorite couch for sickbeds; when all is said and done, we'll (by which I mean "I'll") wash and quite possibly ruin the chenille throws that we've intemperately substituted for easily washable and bleachable bedlinens.
All because we don't have cable in every room, I guess, since television is the opiate of the undersized masses that inhabit this place. If, for instance, my daughter's room had had a cable hookup, which it only would have if we were inclined to put TVs in the kids' rooms, which we're not, then she would have spent all day today in bed rather than on the couch. So there's another lost art to ponder: the entertainment (or at any rate the maintenance of quiet and calm) of the non-reading patient. She doesn't do needlepoint or crochet; I might've been able to convince her to play with toys in bed, but for how long? So onto the couch she went, with a succession of DVDs to keep her mind off her stomach when she wasn't asleep.
I am not germ-phobic, by any stretch, no matter how long my blog entries on cleaning are. Ask my sister. Ask my husband. Ask my poor beleaguered mother-in-law, who would love for me to be a bit more methodical in my approach. My philosophy has always been - and I mean always - that if we clean too effectively, we deny ourselves the chance to be exposed to lots of microorganisms to which we can usefully develop immunities. Likewise, if we use antimicrobials on everything, we may be the last human witnesses to microevolution. (I doubt that the consequences would be that extreme - after all, even Stephen King didn't kill off the entire human race. But a couple of years ago, our youngest did have a run-in with antibiotic-resistant staph. aureus, which scared the dickens out of me.)
Where was I? Oh yes, sickrooms. My job in the past few days would have been incomparably easier if my sick kids had been confined to their bedrooms. But that hypothetical presupposes that they would also have been trained to expect confinement, which is a whole 'nother ball of wax.
On a related subject, I recently inadvertantly converted four friends to annual pillow-buying. Honestly, I mostly do it because, like ironed sheets, there's nothing like a new pillow to make an ordinary person feel like a queen (or king). But - well, it happened this way: I was out to dinner with some women friends the other night, and I mentioned in passing that I'd found the best pillow ever this year, having gone out as usual to buy new pillows for everybody during the January white sales - and one friend interrupted, "You buy new pillows every year? That must cost a fortune!"
Blushing, I pointed out that if you buy new pillows every year, you don't actually have to buy very expensive pillows. Several asked why I do it; I replied, relatively honestly, that it's because my husband is allergic (I didn't say to what; dust mites are probably a concern, but the Cat That Would Not Go To Kitty Heaven is a bigger deal, and he's not allowed near the pillows). I added, "I used to wash them spring and fall, but that was kind of a hassle -" and was cut off by a chorus that can be distilled to, "What are you, some kind of germophobe?" Which, I swear, I'm not. (I might add that until the husband started making enough money that pillows for the whole family were no longer a luxury that we'd indulge in only if we were flush at the end of January, we had the same pillows for oh, I don't want to think how long. I did wash them... occasionally. But I still pretty much never wash any hairbrush in the house, which is something my mom did frequently.)
The following morning, one of these friends emailed the rest of us that she'd just caught a piece on Today about the nastiness that dwells within pillows anywhere from two to 10 years old, and that the report further claimed that though allergen-proof pillow protectors will keep the mites and their, ah, bodily emanations out of your pillow, they don't stop the fungi and such that result from your being a living creature and sleeping and, um, drooling on that pillow. The whole crowd then engaged in a flurry of "Ewwww, gross!!" emails that resulted in everyone's going out to Target and buying this, which is the one I bought and look forward to all day, or similar. (And here I might add that I bet the Today piece was bought and paid for by the Association of Bedding Suppliers or something, to push up those January white sale figures. But truth is a valid defense, I always say.)
In conclusion, while I'd like to see a resurgence of certain lost arts and old-school rules (like "no shoes on beds," which never bothered me until Cheryl Mendelsohn raised the concern in Home Comforts, cited in my cleaning post earlier), considering pillows as family heirlooms (people used to! It takes a long time to collect enough goosedown for a pillow when you only have a dozen geese or so, I guess) is not one of them.