The first symptoms began to reveal themselves less than 24 hours after I subbed in a kindergarten classroom on the last school day before Christmas break. The teacher had been stricken with a flu-like bug, and after taking attendance I discovered that three students had been forced to stay home due to illness, too. I figured that if I could somehow avoid contact with every potentially-contaminated surface/person in the room, then I would have a fair chance of enjoying a healthy Winter vacation. I figured wrong. Of course.

        Travis Naughton

I woke up the next day with a scratchy throat and a general malaise. I popped a pair of Advil and wrote my annual New Year’s column that morning, and as the day wore on, I didn’t feel much worse, although I had lost my voice. By that evening, I was still feeling well enough to attend a good friend’s Birthmas (birthday/Christmas) party—an event to be missed only if Death itself intervenes. I figured that if I could somehow avoid contact with every potentially-contaminable surface/person in the room, then everyone there would have a fair chance of enjoying a healthy Winter vacation. I figured wrong. Again.

The voice mail my friend left on my phone the next day was nearly indecipherable due to the poor state of his voice. He sounded almost as bad as I did, and from what I could discern, he felt almost as bad, too. Later I would learn that his wife, his brother, and his brother’s wife were all sick, too.

By this time, Bethany and our daughter Tiana had fallen ill as well, and I suggested that we cancel our plans to attend Christmas festivities at the home of Bethany’s sister Charla. My spouse reminded me that two of Char’s kids had already been sick, and that they insisted we not miss the family gathering. We spent most of the weekend popping pills and huddling under blankets, hoping to keep from infecting the rest of the family. We figured that if we could somehow avoid contact with… Well, you guessed it. We figured wrong. Again.

At least four more family members became sick within the next 48 hours. Although at least one other guest who was there that weekend was sick prior to our arrival, I couldn’t help but think we should have stayed home.

As the week dragged on, Bethany eventually felt well enough to go back to work on Friday. By 11:00 that morning she was lying on the floor of her office and calling out to her co-workers for help. I sat with her in the emergency room as she was administered intravenous fluids and subjected to several tests. What virus it was that left her so weak and dizzy that she could not walk, we do not know. Her lab work all came back negative. Of course.

Realizing we both needed time to rest and recuperate without exposing anyone else to the mysterious kindergarten bug, Bethany and I cancelled plans to meet friends in St. Louis Friday night and we called off the New Year’s Eve party we planned on hosting at our house. We figured that the only way we could avoid contaminating every person we knew, so that they would have a fair chance of enjoying a healthy Winter vacation, was to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. We figured right. Finally.

Nine days after first feeling affected by the horrible kinderbug, I spent New Year’s Eve still coughing and using my rescue inhaler as needed. Bethany had regained enough strength to return some work emails. Tiana felt well enough to deal with the mountain of laundry that had accumulated in her room. Truman and Alex had somehow avoided getting sick at all despite spending a week and a half living with three of the most infectious people on Earth. Go figure.

School resumes on Wednesday, and I can’t wait to get back to work. I’m ready for a vacation from my vacation.