Charlie’s had a rough run, health-wise, over the last few weeks.
From influenza B to a case of mycoplasma pneumonia that really shook her little system, it’s fair to say that no-one in our house has had much sleep lately.
That’s why, last weekend when it looked like Charlie was finally feeling better, it seemed like a good idea to take the family out for lunch.
Allow me to set the scene…
We had collected Michael from work after a planning conference.
It was Ekka weekend in Brisbane (an annual exhibition and fair held at the showgrounds not far from Michael’s workplace) so the streets were packed.
The buskers were out and so was the sun.
Winter in Queensland sees midday temperatures hovering around 20-25 degrees Celsius, so it was almost balmy.
Charlie was strapped in her chair and Susannah was hungry, so we decided to walk the two blocks to the outdoor mall for a bite to eat.
We stopped at a restaurant called ‘Fat Boy’ – healthy sounding, I know, but it’s actually a gourmet burger place.
By this time, Charlie had started to cough a little and was a bit unsettled, but I thought getting her out of the breeze would solve the cough and the fractious behaviour was more to do with the delicious smells wafting from nearby tables than any discomfort on her part.
Charlie got progressively more upset.
The more she cried, the more she coughed.
The more she coughed, the more she cried.
I took her for a walk away from the smell of food, still thinking she was mostly just hungry.
I picked her up and patted her on the back.
I tucked a blanket around her.
I sang her songs and jiggled her chair.
Finally, Michael signalled that the lunch had arrived.
When we returned to our table, Charlie couldn’t have been less interested in her food.
Her coughing had ramped up to a point where she was throwing up horrible leftover pneumonia phlegm into her plastic bib.
The trouble was, the bib had a capacity of about 100ml.
Charlie’s capacity, on the other hand, seemed endless.
The teenager behind the counter handed me one.
I helped myself to a handful and raced back to our table just in time to stem most of the flow.
The time to up and leave had come and gone.
The young waitresses made it clear to us that they didn’t like children with their totally unhelpful attitudes and baleful expressions, and other patrons gave us the hairy eyeball for bringing such an obviously ill child to a restaurant.
I wanted to yell at them that we’d already been in quarantine for three weeks and were just trying to eke our way back into society, but I had to admit to myself that on the face of it I’d probably have thought the same thing.
I trekked to the bathroom with Charlie now in a fully-fledged coughing fit and sat her on the edge of the bench while I tried to clean her up and calm her down at the same time as attempting to control the amount of collateral damage to my own clothes.
By the time I got back to the table, Susannah was crying because the sauce on her burger was ‘too spicy’ and had burnt her lips (thanks, Fat Boy).
Michael had managed to scarf his own burger under duress and without enjoyment, and I had to admire his sheer determination that we weren’t going to waste the $50 meal entirely.
My own food was lounging in a pool of grease wrapped up in greaseproof (oh, the irony) paper ready for our hasty retreat.
Charlie and Susannah finally calmed down on the walk back to the car, but I was still helplessly, hysterically laughing when we climbed in for the drive home.
I finally recovered my calm somewhere on the Western freeway.
My burger was awful, in case you were wondering.
Oh, the serenity.
If a venue improved its changing facilities, would you be more likely to visit it with your disabled child?