Oh, those crazy memories of childhood: Throwing up

One of the saddest jobs as a mom is dealing with your vomiting child. You can’t do much more than pull the long hair back if need be, offer a wet washcloth afterward, and deal with the toilet clean-up. Your beloved baby has to do the really hard, gut-wrenching work.

We just came through a night like this over the winter break with 15-year-old Second Daughter, who threw up “8-1/2 times” (the “1/2” being “a strange noise like a baby dragon” and part of a cup of tea that she felt didn’t really count as a full throw-up).

We’ve all been there. Carsick, miserable, not wanting to tell your folks you need them to pull over but you just know you’re going to hurl any second. For me the smell of stale cigarette smoke triggers this feeling in an instant; Dad was a chain smoker so car trips always involved nausea.

Or lying there with the flu, dreading the moment when you make that rush to the bathroom just in time to throw yourself over the toilet bowl and start contracting those abs in agonizing fashion.

When we got sick as little kids Mom parked us on the sofa in the living room, I guess to keep us closer to where she worked in the kitchen. All the bedrooms were upstairs and it would have been a long sprint if she had to run all the way up every time she heard that sad, sad sound.

She always set us up with a great big metal mixing bowl—our back-up receptacle in case we couldn’t get off the sofa in time—some flat 7-Up (always 7-Up), and Saltines. If we ran a fever she had a wet washcloth to fold onto our sweaty little foreheads, which also came in handy for wiping vomit-y little mouths..

Mom checked on us periodically while she did whatever it was that moms did all day that kept them so busy (maybe it had something to do with a big house that had the laundry in the basement and the bedrooms on the second floor, six kids to cook for if we were all home, hanging laundry out to dry on the line in summer, the big garden and the food she preserved…..).

In my family, we really, REALLY know we’re going to hurl. Every last one of us salivates heavily with a particular kind of mouth-watering urgency that tells us we’re about to vomit—usually with enough time to make it to the bathroom.

I thought this was a universal signal until learning from my mom that one of her adult friends had thrown up all over a restaurant table unexpectedly. Hard way to learn you’ve developed an allergy to crab cakes. Fortunately for my Mom Vomit Clean-Up Assignments, my daughters inherited the same signal.

I’m reminded of this whole Vomit Train thanks to a vertigo-inducing YouTube video of the old Lewiston grade. For anyone who grew up in Lewiston, Idaho—or on the hill above it in Moscow—this could be a stomach-churning trip down Memory Lane (Memory Grade?), so view at your own risk.

Even viewing at this 4x high speed, I remember the twists and turns, some of the little valleys with a few trees and bushes, the scary sensation of looking out over the l-o-n-g drop to the valley on those U-turns and sharp outside corners, and the blessed stop sign at the bottom of the hill.

This video explains quite nicely why I threw up all over the side of the Oldsmobile after a trip to visit Middle Older Brother—the second of my three older brothers--at the University of Idaho.

Youngest Elder Brother (YEB), who is 11 years old than I, drove the dark red family Oldsmobile. Blind as a bat since about five years old, I lost my glasses at the university somewhere, so the ride home was a scary blur. As one of the Little Hoppers (YEB’s nickname for us), of course I sat in the back seat.

I got sick—and sicker—as the car hurtled down this roller coaster of a road. The moment of truth came somewhere about halfway along the line. I think I mostly got the window down in time, although I can’t be certain.

What I do remember: sitting in the car when we got back, crying bitterly because YEB had said I had to clean the vomit off the side of the car. I don’t know quite when I’ve been so miserable (although I had other bouts of nausea-induced misery as a young adult that had more to do with choice and quantity of beverage than backseat passenger status).

That sense of helplessness, the dread I felt at having to get out of the car and deal with that stinking mess!

A crashing sound reverberated against the side of the car. YEB, garden hose in hand, must have been kidding.

Now if only he were around when my kids threw up....


  1. Wow - your latest posts really generated some impressive visuals in my mind!

    I will be looking forward to a future post after you and Eric make the trip up the old Lewiston grade on your bikes.

  2. Comment received via Twitter from @tishgrier:
    "That video reminds me of driving down into Sedona! yikes! (and funny post too )"


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