It’s November. My whole family is sitting around the table for some hasty sandwiches, and an alarm sounds: beep-beep-beep-beep. Pause. Beep-beep-beep-beep.
The hubby investigates. “Carbon monoxide!” he calls out, anxious. “I think I’m feeling wobbly.” The kids are not pleased with the high-pitched sound (the beep, not my hubby’s voice).
“Let me go check it out,” I say, marching into my daughter’s room where the little machine is screeching. I press the button and hold to reset, then turn off the furnace and begin opening windows. All seems well for about two minutes, until the beeps resume.
“I’m coming,” says the fire chief when I call.
As we are sitting around the table popping chunks of frozen mango into our mouths, Xavi suddenly begins to struggle. He is 21-months-old, so the gag reflex is still in full swing. But he truly can’t breathe this time.
“Choking!” I sputter, “Xavi is choking!” Trying to pull him out of the high chair while patting his back, I succeed at neither. My stomach is flying out the roof. Rob is suddenly there, pulling the tray off. I’m yanking Xavi out of his chair, panic-stricken eyes burning into my memory, and dumping him upside-down while Rob yells, “No! Do the Heimlich!”
All I can remember is a story about my mother-in-law turning her nephew upside down and a hot dog flying out of his throat.
Rob jumps in, pressing fist under Xavi’s chest. I am panting as hard as he is, and feeling the adrenaline down to my toetips. Finally a hunk of frozen mango lands on the floor.
Xavi looks up at me, smiles, and glances briefly at the piece of melting mango before toddling back over to his high chair.
Shall we observe a moment of silence?
“Believe me,” he said, “unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, Phillips).
My baby accepts, smiles, moves on. He dives back into his (newly-chopped-smaller) bowl of mangoes with a grin.
Meanwhile, I’m drawing on the rich anecdotes for the next week, not failing to add the mishaps of the rest of the day…that the furnace can’t be replaced for a week, that the weather will dip to 19 degrees Fahrenheit, that later that afternoon my brother is flying in from New York to sleep in our now-chilly guestroom, that the blinds fell on my head and into the toilet while I was cleaning it, that the baby dropped a glass jar of peanut butter on the floor, smashing it to goopy smithereens, that he then proceeded to touch little hand to space heater…
But no, stop the enthusiastic replaying, forget the mishaps, ignore the inconveniences, and change your whole outlook. Notice that you are breathing, that you didn’t choke, that you still have a bowl of delicious frozen mango to savour. Enter the joyful kingdom of Heaven, the country of Gratitude, the acceptance of a little child. Cue a full-orchestra chorale version of Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow and be thankful for the flip side of all your complaints:
Praise God for carbon monoxide alarm!
Praise Him for Xavi’s smile unharmed!
Praise Him for a furnace new,
Praise Him the blinds fell not in poo!
Photos by Robert Fusté