Monday, January 7, 2013

When In Rome

I sympathize with those who need to taste everything.  I, too, have this natural inclination. It would seem, unfortunately, that along with my good looks and modesty, Amelia also inherited my keen sense of taste. Be it her newest toy or my triple scoop ice cream cone, she must have a thorough lick. While most would applaud her desire to explore through utilization of the senses, I cannot think of a worse scenario for my OCD:  my child is a walking tongue. 

She licks our couches; she licks our clothes; once, I caught her licking my hair. Months ago, this would have sent me into a mental downward spiral---the mere thought of the enormous bacterial load entering her vulnerable immune system was enough to make me opt for Google instead of dinner. Yet lately, I have prided myself in behavior modification---I am working with my anxiety and allowing Amelia a little more room to explore.  This "cool as a cucumber" approach literally failed me on one occasion: she licked an unwashed cucumber in our grocery cart. There was nothing cool about that.

Much to my relief, my mom flew out over the holidays and accompanied us on a trip to Rome.  Since childhood, she has been dealing with my OCD and knows how to calm my intense fears and irrational thoughts.  She also lets Millie do the fun things my mind could never allow her to do, like touching the buttons of a store elevator or the leaves of an unknown tree. Since I want Amelia to experience all this world has to offer, I simply ask my mom not to tell me what Amelia touches or licks---it's best I never know. 

After an amazing three days in Italy and a very mild week of OCD symptoms, we took an evening stroll from our guest house to St. Peter's Basilica on New Year's Eve. With thousands in line to enter and see the Pope celebrate mass, we were asked to leave Millie's stroller in a side area to allow more room for the crowds.  Translation: Amelia and her tongue could no longer be contained inside a stroller.

I am not sure on the exact figures, but I have a feeling based on observation alone that St. Peter's Basilica has some of the highest foot traffic numbers in the world.  No less than twenty-thousand shoes dirtied the beautiful marble floors that day, and without my stroller, I was forced to let Amelia's feet add to that number.

Panic slowly overtook me as I watched her hands and bare feet (the child won't leave on socks and shoes) slide over the contaminated marble.  Reminding myself that I was in the presence of the Pope and that he would want me to be at peace, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  Sometime while I was exhaling, I assume something like this went down:

Whatever it was she saw or imagined, she just had to have a taste. In the audience of the holiest man alive, Amelia licked the floor of St. Peter's Basilica. 

Trying to maintain my cool cucumber composure but frozen in place, I screamed internally as my mom quickly removed her from the scene of the crime.  "Calm down, Stefanie, she won't catch anything," my mom said to me.  "It was holy ground she licked."

It has been 168 hours since Amelia tasted sacred marble, and so far she is showing no signs of illness or bacterial infection. In fact, she is healthier and happier than ever.  It would appear my mother was right---all she caught was a blessing. 

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