My mother's family finally had a plan. We were going to have our family reunion weekend in Southern California. (Easy for us.) We stayed at the beautiful Estancia La Jolla, just north of San Diego. It was Saturday night, and all the families were going to meet at my cousin's place, where there would be plenty of food, booze and horsing around. I couldn't wait.
I sent Michael and the kids ahead of me to retrieve the car from valet, while I made sure the bag was fully packed: sun screen, light jackets, baseball hats, second sets of undies...you know the drill. I arrived at the front of the hotel with a song in my heart when Michael approached me with a storm brewing across his forehead. Even before he spoke, I knew I was going to be pissed off at the timing of whatever calamity had befallen.
I took a deep breath as he said through clenched teeth, "We're going to the hospital, now."
Why is it always when we're ready to enjoy some much needed fun does the grotty side of life insist on creeping in? I inquired as to why we had to go to the hospital, and Michael said, "Your son..." (I hate that Sebastian becomes solely mine when travesty occurs.) "Your son, just ate a poisonous flower."
I immediately doubted he ate any flower. Sebastian is more of a flower sucker, not a flower eater, and I take full responsibility for this. One day, when he and I came across a bunch of honeysuckle, I showed him how to suck the nectar. He loved it so much that he started experimenting with any flower that had a trumpet. Michael and I have been quick to reprimand these moments, saying that we didn't know which flowers were poisonous. Little did I know that some of them actually are!
"Okay. Back up. How do you know the flower is poisonous?"
"The valet told me."
This brought up a whole slew of questions. Is the valet a botanist on the side? A florist? An Agatha Christie buff? I imagine most valets don't aspire to park cars for a living, and it's quite possible that many of them have outside interests, but it seemed a stretch that any valet would know the random flower my son was sucking at the precise moment our car was brought around just happened to be poisonous. I had to dig.
"What kind of flower is it?"
"The valet didn't know."
Okay, is it me, or is this whole thing getting ludicrous?
"Where is the valet now?"
"No one seems to know."
So, the valet with the peculiar talent of labeling a plant poisonous without knowing what it is, has mysteriously disappeared, and on that information alone we're going to the hospital!!??!!
I know my husband when he gets into this frame of mind. For him the hospital is a place to reclaim sanity. In the beginning of our relationship, there were episodes where Michael thought he was having a "stroke" or a "heart attack." He insisted we go to the emergency room, where we'd sit it out for four hours, finally see a health care professional who would give Michael a clean bill of health, and all symptoms would miraculously disappear.
To be fair to him, we haven't gone on one of those sanity seeking trips since we've had kids. But now, if there is a flight of fancy, a departure from reality, it's related to Sebastian and Maxie's well being. Like when Sebastian licked the Scrubbing Bubbles canister. Michael was all set to go to the hospital, but I got eerily logical and calm. No, let me call Poison Control. And you know what? There really is a Poison Control. I must have filed that card away for a rainy day. Turns out, Poison Control is really great at telling you what to do, and what signs to look for if you (or your kid) ingest any lethal thing. And what's most impressive...they don't sound like they've been outsourced to India.
Sebastian was fine after the Scrubbing Bubbles debacle. So, once again, my eerily calm, logical self told me I needed to call my old friends at Poison Control.
I went to the front desk, where they happened to be printing out the info on the flower in question. (The timing of a prestigious hotel looking at a possible law suit is impeccable.) It's a vine flower called Cup of Gold Vine, Copa de Oro, or Solandra Maxima, the last sounding like a kick ass drag queen. It is indeed poisonous. So, I asked for the number to Poison Control and quick as a flash, someone was typing away at the computer (once again, law suit looming) and zing, zap, zop, I had a phone number in no time.
I called Poison Control, and a very kind gentleman told me there was no need to over react or go to the hospital. Poison from plant life gets in the body quickly and symptoms are almost immediate. Sebastian's eyes weren't dilated and his behavior wasn't erratic, so to my mind we were free and clear to party. Yippee! But one look at Michael's face, and I knew he still wanted us to go to the effin hospital.
So, I had him call Poison Control for himself and voice all concerns. By the time he got back from that phone call, the hotel's head of security announced that he had called the paramedics.
But before I could finish the expletive, sirens could be heard. The valet team frantically cleared the drive circle in front of the hotel in such a way that drew many looky loos and scared the holy crap out of my kids. Paramedics swooped in and took my son. Michael, like a bobble head doll, followed along behind nodding at what they had to say.
I fell back and called my mom. If you knew Sally Foster you'd understand. We were extremely late at this point, and I figured telling her about our poisonous flower slash paramedics escapade would both legitimize our family's tardiness and give her a whopper of a cocktail story.
After hanging up, I went to the ambulance, where my son was already strapped to a gurney, and asked a younger paramedic, "What's happening?"
"We're getting him ready for transport."
"What? NO. He's not going anywhere."
"I'm sorry, who are you?"
"I'm one of the parents."
"What do you mean?"
What did he mean, what did I mean? The sentence is self explanatory. Perhaps if I spoke more slowly he'd get my drift, "IIIIII aaaaam ooooone ooooof thhhhhe paaaaareeeeents."
"So, are there a group of parents?"
Okay. Now he really lost me. Group of parents? What sort of fucking commune did he think I was from? All I could think to say was, "No, I am not a Mormon." And no offense to Mormons, I just think too many unresolved story lines from last season's Big Love were swirling around in my head. For that was the only way I could apply this oddball paramedic's "group of parents" questioning.
Then he went from obtuse to pissy. "Hey, I'm just trying to figure out if there are a group of parents here watching a group of children." It was at this point I deduced a hint of crazy, so I moved on to the older, more seasoned, less insane looking paramedic.
He calmly told me I had every right not to send Sebastian to the hospital. Finally, someone who has his head on straight. But then he added, "We are not doctors, however," in that you-can't-sue-us-because-we-covered-our-asses way, "and we tend to err on the side of caution especially when it concerns children."
Are you fucking kidding me?!!? I called Poison Control who told me my son was fine. And now after checking his vitals, you have told me he's fine. And yet, the inference is if I don't take him to the hospital right now, I'm being a neglectful parent? The nerve!
I let my common sense prevail. I signed the release form. We sped away from the crime scene and went to the party. Poison Control called back after an hour to check up on Sebastian. Eyes not dilated. Behavior not erratic. He was fine. It took a long while but we finally did have a fun, and thankfully uneventful, rest of the evening.