Three a.m.: The Onamotapeiac Hour


A thump.

A creak.

A scratch.

A splat.

Then the whisk of our duvet being flung open as Groom garbled, “Whaat und whooo huh? Fonzi hug me? Is someone there? Someone? Did someone just vomit in the hall?”

By the end of that string of kerflabble, I had been yanked from blissful black to adrenalized alertness. If it’s mid-winter, and a splat has been heard on floorboards in the middle of the night, then vomit is (literally) afoot. Groom was already heading towards the source as I shook my brain into a semblance of sense and leapt out into the 54 degrees of House at Night. Three seconds later, I was up to speed and ready to wrangle.

I may have trouble feeding the children with regularity, but I am ever Barf’s handmaiden.

As Team Groggy Parent careened into the hallway, we encountered a shivering Girl, riveted there in the hall, staring in awe at the offering pooled around her feet. Respectfully, we all took a quiet moment to admire her artistry–a vivid palette of red and maroon and burnt sienna, all heaved so effortlessly onto the oak. Had we the fortitude, we would have let the pile dry onto the boards for a few days, carefully excised them from the surrounding floor, hung a hook on the back, and driven the whole thing down to a gallery in the tourist center of the city; properly lit, this piece could have garnered us a cool three hundred. Out-of-towners, up The Shore for the weekend, eager to purchase an example of local talent, would surely have appreciated the cachet of displaying Girl’s Pukescape in the foyer. They would have paid. Oh, yes, they would have paid.


However, Groom and I always get reactive around heaps of hurl; the art world will survive the loss. Groom threw on a shirt (hazmat suit) and began the mop-up. Even as I shouldered the strenuous shift of Girl Cuddling and Temp Taking, I managed to point out, helpfully, “You know, we have five nice things in this house. Three of them are the washcloths you’re using.”

His voice irrationally pinched for someone doing nothing more than squatting on the floor at 3 a.m., wiping up someone else’s spew, Groom replied, “They’re doing the job, and we can wash them when I’m done.”

True ‘nuf, Galahad. I suppose we could, even though those three washcloths, along with the Kitchenaid mixer and the vintage Schwinn in the garage, constituted our children’s inheritance. But wouldn’t it have been easier if we had had urp-rags at the handy upstairs, so that we never again would have to misuse the very goods that might help finance the kids’ college tuition?

Hold your answer. It may come in handy in about six paragraphs. As you strive to keep your thoughts in check, picture us wiping, rinsing, medicating, patting, tossing, and then, back in bed at last, turning for another hour and half before we could get the stench out of our nostrils long enough to cop a dozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze once again.

Later the next day, and I’m going to call it Thursday, Groom came home from the gym. Normally, Groomeo is not a gym fan (he’d have to be big and industrial, if he were, with a head that didn’t tire of rotating gently throughout the humid summer months), as he believes bodies in motion should traverse natural spaces and actually cover Point A, the inbetween, and eventually Point B–not so much the same six-foot treadmill belt ninety kwathajillion times. However, he’s had to concede that the pool at the gym works better for swimming than the running trails around the city do, especially after he almost lost a hand in ’03 doing the breast-stroke up a particularly rocky and steep path. Since then, all his swims are carried out in open water, which, when it’s 40 degrees below zero and all the world is ice, means the gym.

Plopping down his bag on the kitchen floor, he announced, “So, I went ahead and signed up for that ‘Couch Potato Triathlon’ they’re doing this month at the Y.”

Clearly, there was only one possible reaction: “Evil Pod Martian, I am going to tell you this once and only once: I’m going to need my real husband returned to me before dinnertime tonight–because he cooks the dinner, and I’m already feeling a might peckish. So give him back NOW, or I will squash you like a walnut between the nutcrackers that are my thighs. And don’t try to pass off yet another of your clearly-flawed clones of him. Return the one who told me the other day, when I asked if he’d ever spend an evening with fellow voters, ‘I’d go for a two hour run, but I’d never spend two hours caucusing, stuck there in a place with strangers, having to pretend I could stand them.’ That’s the man I want back, not this defective ‘I’m-a-joiner’ copy you’re trying to pawn off on me now.”

“No, really, Joce, it’s really the real me, and I did sign up. I decided it would give me some motivation to swim more, and I’ve been wanting to bike more, and all I’ll have to do as part of the ‘triathlon’ is log my miles each time I go in.”

I perked up. “Plus, I’ll bet there’s a fine reward at the end, inn’t there? Not a trophy, not a medal, not a plaque. You’re going to get saddled with your 223rd race t-shirt, aren’t you, for doing this Sofa Tater doohickie? And really, hasn’t your closet been needing yet another too-long cotton shirt with a poorly-designed graphic on the front? Weren’t you just saying the other day you’ve been needing a man blouse that prominently features a spud reclining in a La-Z-Boy?”

“Well,” he responded, “it’s not like I have to wear the dumb t-shirt. I mean, we always need rags…”

…and with those words, a blinding flash of illumination knocked us both to the linoleum, where we lay stunned, flattened, wondering why we don’t sweep more often.

Yes, we always need rags.

Especially in the mid-winter months.

When dinners involving kidney beans and tomatoes go splat in the night.

At the moment of this illumination, things suddenly got all sciencey. See, the universe is a place of exquisite elegance: in an ecological system, a need is sensed, and, providentially, something arises to meet that need. In the biological world, this mutually-benefical reciprocity is called “co-evolution.” (And, yes, that is the one thing I know about the biological sciences since the sole time I ever took biology was in the 7th grade; sure, we pinned down some worms and dissected the fetal pig and all that year, but mostly I remember the teacher, Mr. Leland, ran into some trouble for liking to cozy up to the nubile lads in the class. Me, he never gave a second glance. That’s why I hadn’t even heard the term co-evolution until last week, when Groom told me about it. That one? He glances twice, even thrice, at me, so I remain his diligent student.)

In case you need something more technical than what I gleaned from Mr. Leland and his substitute teacher, Naturalist Groom, The Wikipiddle blathers this: “In biology, co-evolution is the mutual evolutionary influence between two species. Each party in a co-evolutionary relationship exerts selective pressures on the other, thereby affecting each others’ evolution. Examples of co-evolution include pollination of Angraecoid orchids by African moths. These species co-evolve because the moths are dependent on the flowers for nectar and the flowers are dependent on the moths to spread their pollen so they can reproduce. The evolutionary process has led to deep flowers and moths with long probosci.”

Mmmmm. Long probosci. Rock it, Mr. Leland.

Oh, but, er, to refocus. Furniturial Triathlete Groom and I had been licking the tiles in the kitchen, illuminated. Even after we closed the refrigerator door, bidding adieu to the 40-watts of helpful light, the idea remained. We found ourselves crawling across an historical moment of adaptive co-evolution.

This is why we have hired a contractor to build a small glass case into the wall upstairs, just outside the kids’ room. In that case, behind the glass pane (to be broken only in the case of emergency), there will be a hook. And on the hook will dangle the Couch Potato Triathlon t-shirt, waiting to fulfill its destiny, poised to leap into the next






, , ,




34 responses to “Three a.m.: The Onamotapeiac Hour”

  1. Anette Avatar

    A splendid story! Good thinking with the emergency-tshirt!

  2. AmyTree Avatar

    You write about vomit with such elan! Good use of the man-blouse – they also come in hands for mopping up sick pets…(for those times when sick pets liquify, obviously…)

    Could you drop me a quick email? I Have a small favour to ask…


  3. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Goodness me. Now there’s a silver lining. Co-evolution sounds a bit too scietific for me, I’ll still with the spiritual law of manifestation; I think about knickers, knickers arrive.


  4. oreneta Avatar

    We have cartons of t-shirts storeed somewhere or other, and cartons more that have gone off to goodwill…I think the breed. Little man blouse sex orgies…kind of reminding me of your science teacher here…producing an ever expanding number of the things.

  5. Em Avatar

    You never fail to make me laugh. And to stand (okay, I’m sitting…but you get the point) in awe of your writing talents. I’ll never view the midnight heave in the same way again.

    And good luck to hubby in chasing taters…or whatever it is.

  6. Maddy Avatar

    We have a stack of old bath towels both upstairs and down, but I much prefer your solution.

  7. lime Avatar

    i am most impressed at your ability to write not only coherently but to seamlessly weave together puke, t-shirts, races, and biological terminology into a coherent and entertaining post after spending the night swabbing vomit off floors. me? i’d just vomit some nonsense onto the server that is blogger and hope my readers brains could adequately soak up the spillage.

  8. liv Avatar

    Brilliant. Really, everything about this post that is so very, very long is brilliant. I say that in true awe since my brain would have given out just after spew and nice washcloths. But, then you hooked me with long proboscis. Fantastic.

  9. Diana Avatar

    You were only thinking of charging the tourists $300? I’m betting Girl’s work would garner at least $3000.

    That would cover a whole lotta shirts, not that you need anymore.

  10. flutter Avatar

    really though, why aren’t floors absorbent and disinfectant? Without the use of nice (albeit washable) washcloths?

  11. Jill Avatar

    Who knew vomit could be so funny? Just for the record, the “pre-vomit” heaving noises that a cat or dog makes in the middle of the night will wake a person up just as quickly, especially if said animal is sleeping in the same bed as said person.

  12. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    Very apt and vivid description! Ican almost smell it! Well, I’m wondering if the janitor stil comes to throw sawdust on it when kids barf on the classroom floor!

    Poor kiddo!
    Good luck to groom in Tri!

  13. Star Avatar

    That was an awesome post. ANd, any husband that will clean up vomit in the middle of the night, can use all the good towels he wants.

  14. Franki Avatar

    Maybe Groom can participate in a triathlon that gives away nice little plastic trash cans with a horrible graphic printed on the side to put next to each child’s bed? Cleaning up puke is against my religion.

  15. Claire Avatar

    Only you could connect vomit, orchids and co-evolution with such outstanding clarity. I think.
    heh, heh, you’re lucky – I am the designated puke plower in my house.

  16. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Yeah, you know, I’m feeling really queasy today, and then I go and read this. Perfect timing.

    Note to self: don’t let wife read this post, lest she get ideas for what to do with my shirts.

  17. kimber the wolfgrrrl Avatar
    kimber the wolfgrrrl

    It is rather amazing at the hyperspace quickness with which the human mind can go from deep sleep to alert cleanliness when vomit is involved.

    I have one race shirt, ONE, which I struggled through 8 kilometers to recieve last autumn, and I’ll be damned if any scrap of bodily fluid will stain it — such is the opinion of this Warcraft-playing couch potato. When I squeeze my pudgy frame into my race t-shirt, I feel mildly athletic, and it’s much easier to wear the shirt than to actually BE athletic.

  18. jen Avatar

    you can even make puking sound like a good time, sister. i don’t know how you do it, but you do. and i love it.

  19. Hammer Avatar

    The great thing about pet vomit is if you wait ten minutes they eat it again.

  20. Jazz Avatar

    What a novel use for tshirts. Maybe I should borrow kids during the high vomit months in order to thin Mr. Jazz’s way out of hand collection of Ts

  21. Theresa Avatar

    I never thought vomit could make me laugh, but you have achieved the impossible. Many an ugly t-shirt has fulfilled its destiny in much the same fashion at our house. 🙂

  22. Claudia Avatar

    Give me ANY childhood illness you can name, bring it on, but for the love of all that is sacred, keep the stomach flu/bug/upsets. I heave at the mere mention of heave. As you can imagine, when someone throws up here it’s QUITE chaotic.

  23. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    No one warns you about the sheer volume of vomit and other spewed boy fluids you must deal with once you have kids. It would be a hell of a contraceptive.

  24. SQT Avatar

    Puke in the middle of the night is the Devil’s work. Especially when you have a daughter with long hair.

    Trust me, I have thought hard about cutting her hair just because of the puke factor.

  25. the frogster Avatar
    the frogster

    I found the swimmy things you put on your biceps a big help when I would do laps on the local jogging path. They cushioned the blow, and made it a lot easier to avoid drowning.

  26. my4kids Avatar

    Oh wow you make me laugh! I wish I had half your talent for telling a story sometimes…..
    You are fortunate though. When the hubby hears that “splat” he generally hides under the covers pretending to have not heard and still be sleeping…..

  27. susan Avatar

    It’s always good to have a plan.

    I’m just greatful my kids never get sick…at least not in a barfing sort of way

  28. Dory Avatar

    Excellent post! You do have a way with your turns of phrase!

    *raises a glass to you*

  29. Steve Avatar

    This is the first time I’ve been in before the 31st comment. I’m on a meteoric rise not unlike the prequell to Girl’s hurl. I was wondering what you were going to do with all of those shirts.

  30. My Reflecting Pool Avatar
    My Reflecting Pool

    I hated the spat years. Especially the ones that went rocketing down the stairs. Nothing like cleaning it out of crevaces for days. Bleh.

    I like that your thighs are nutcrackers. hahaha.I’m going to have to borrow that. Hope you don’t mind.

    I wish we had thought of using all those crap t-shirts Poor Bill earned in our early years.

  31. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    All men spend their lives in desperate need of another t-shirt with a poorly designed graphic.

    Well told – best puking story of the day.

  32. amymalia Avatar

    It must be said that you are both a comic genius AND f-ing hilarious. And I laughed out freaking loud the first time I read your blog. I’d tell you that I’m totally jealous (I mean, ADMIRE) you immensely from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, but my feet kind of smell right now, haven’t seen a bottle of polish in MONTHS and I haven’t washed my (needing highlights) hair yet today, so I fear the complimentary effect will be lost.

  33. amymalia Avatar

    You know how whenever you get licensed somewhere (like in NY, when you become a PA or MD) you get your license and it says License #456,598,354,763–meaning there were 456,598,354,762 people before you? Well, your reader license reads number TWO.

    How cool is that??

    Actually, please don’t answer that. Just smile and nod, smile and nod.

  34. chelle Avatar

    Some how we have avoided the middle of the night vomit sessions SO FAR …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *