Halloween Stomach Flu

On Halloween morning, I woke up to my 11-year-old moaning, “Uma, uma” (Korean for mother). Because of jet lag, I wanted to see if he was just talking in his sleep. Both my son and I are major league sleep talkers. While fast asleep, I used to scream whole strings of arguments in Korean to the dismay of my non-Korean lovers. Just last week, Tristan cried out in his sleep, “I know sex is disgusting but…” and then his body nestled back into his plum colored duvet and started snoring lightly. But this morning, it was a cry from the bathroom, the toilet to be exact, where he was pouring out his digested dinner from his mouth.

After he threw up, instead of feeling better, his stomach knotted up in pain. Then for the first time in 3 years, he asked me to rub his belly. This really woke me up. I truly believe that this gesture of having your belly rubbed is an act of faith and trust. The trust comes from a childlike belief in magic; the type of magic that allows you to equate the touch of a loving hand with instant healing. Then there is faith that having your mother that close to your ailing body will create a sacred vigil of sorts and bring relief.

When I was four, I had a severe case of chicken pox. I could not stop my compulsive scratching, so my mother slid her special silk gloves onto my hands to keep them still or to dull my sharp nails. I remember begging her to sit next to me and pray (maybe to Buddha and Jesus?) for my itching to go away. As she whispered her requests to her God, it felt as if a cool mist covered my itching and made them tolerable for a moment. My mom still talks about this request. As a mother, I realize that it must have given her the same wave of bliss that I felt when I rubbed Tristan’s belly.

So I rubbed his belly with some castor oil and citrus lotion and sang him the song that my mother sang to me and her mother before her. It goes like this and mind you it is a translation. Literally it says, “Go down go down (the pain) and go away, your pain is just a fluke and mother’s hand is medicine.” It repeats in sing songy fashion that matches the rhythm of the circles on the belly.

When I was a child, I was happily wrapped up in the warm gesture of a belly rub from my mother’s soft hand. Now I see that it is also a gift it is to the mother who is rubbing her child’s belly.

Below are pictures from last Halloween. Tristan was Reno from Final Fantasy 7. I was Chin-Lee from Street Fighter.


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