One day in early December, not so many years ago, my nine-year-old daughter caught sight of herself in the mirror at daycare, and noticed her face was bright red. All the kids had red faces, because they'd just come indoors after playing in the snow. But everyone agreed that hers seemed particularly bright. She felt hot, too, but a thermometer revealed she had no fever. She sat by an open window to cool down, and when I picked her up an hour later, she still felt hot and looked red, but she said it was going away. By the time we'd finished dinner, it was gone.
The next day, though, she complained of an earache. The winter concert was on that evening, so we let her go to school. She sang well. But when we got home that night, we could feel a small lump under her right ear. The following morning, we could actually see it, and we took her to the doctor.
All that day, the lump kept swelling. By nighttime it had grown to the size of a small mango. Her neck skin was stretched taut around it. By then, she was deep in pain: she couldn't chew, couldn't swallow, couldn't talk, couldn't even cry. We dosed her with Tylenol as we waited for the antibiotic to kick in. Finally, around midnight that night, a Friday, things began to turn around. The swelling receded. She fell asleep. Two days later, the lump was only a memory.
Parents learn not to dwell on illnesses that go away. Kids throw up. They get fevers. They stay up all night wheezing. Each event is a crisis as it unfolds, but when it is over, the adrenaline drops and you move on. And this event, we decided, was now over.
Little did we know.