I didn’t understand it. It was raining. It was always raining. I had my Davy Crockett fringed jacket and my Daniel Boone ‘coonskin cap and I was, as usual, ready to explore the acres of woods around the house. So, reluctantly I put the jacket and the cap over the stick that was fashioned like ol’ Tick Licker (rifle), and went off to find the answer.
“Why is it always raining mom?” I was never surprised at her answers. They always had something to do with drinking water or making the plants and trees green. None of those things mattered to me. We lived on Cape Cod and summer weather was too precious to be wasted on something as inconvenient as rain. The Alamo needed to be defended or the Kentuck’ frontier needed to be explored. “You need to stay in and rest anyway.” she would say. I was already gloomy about the rain and general dreariness of the day and she had to bring that up.
This Christmas I had been given the worst of all Christmas presents. I got the chicken pox. A week before Christmas my mother noticed the rash and the bumps and called ol’ Doc Oliviera. He arrived that afternoon and gave my mother the bad news. “It’s chicken pox all right. I’ll give him a shot and you keep him quiet and put calamine on him to keep him from itching. If you have any problems, let me know. He’ll be fine in a couple of weeks.” That was easy for him to say. I couldn’t believe I was getting a shot. No matter what happened in life it seemed to start with a shot of something. This time it was penicillin. Then off he went to cause another child pain, or so I thought to myself.
For the next two weeks, I was alone. My sisters and Dad would visit but only Mom would actually come in and sit on my bed. Every day was the same; take my temperature, a gentle sponge bath and the calamine lotion. But I got all my meals served to me in bed! Somehow, though, that didn’t make me feel as special as I had hoped. When it was all over, I had missed the Christmas vacation and only 1 week of school and I was ready to go back and see my friends. Everybody had questions about what was wrong with me and how I managed to stay out of school for a whole week. But after a few days, I was no longer the center of attention and 2nd grade returned to learning how to subtract one number from another.
Then it happened. I had only been back in school for two weeks. Mom was still cautiously checking me for signs of the chickenpox when I told her I had a sore throat. It wasn’t just a sore throat, I was on fire! She took my temperature and then the inevitable happened. Ol’ Doc Oliviera came into my room. It didn’t take long before he starting shaking his head. “Well he did it again.” He told my mother. “He’s got the mumps. I’ll give him a shot and you keep his fever down with some aspirin and cool baths. Be sure to give him plenty of fluids and he’ll be fine in a couple of weeks. Let me know if you have any problems.” No, no, no, this can’t be happening. Another shot! And this one was penicillin just like the last one. And again, he calmly went off to cause other children pain.
At least there was no itching involved with mumps. My throat was swollen up like a melon and I couldn’t swallow very well but there was no itching. Day after day went by for the next 2 weeks. Mrs. Armbruster, my 2nd grade teacher would send schoolwork home for me to do as best I could without any instruction. Slowly my throat and neck returned to its normal size and I could start to eat regular food. A small sip of orange juice however, proved that perhaps I wasn’t as healed as everyone thought. It was only when mom got a glass of water in such a hurry that the yelling and screaming stopped. But just as ol’ Doc Oliviera had said, after two weeks I was ready to go back to school.
My first day back to school was a little strange. When I had the chicken pox, I was admired and envied for finding a way to stay out of school for a week. But nearly everyone had heard of chicken pox. I guess Mrs. Armbruster had told the class that I had mumps. Everyone in school then went home and told their parents that I had the mumps. And so when I returned there was a certain amount on caution around me that I didn’t understand. It didn’t last more than a few days but I would come home each day crying because my friends didn’t want to play with me anymore. Such is life when you’re 7.
It was mid February by now and time for snow forts and snowball fights and adventures out in the woods, but not for me. “You need to stay in and rest,” was always the answer to every request I made for outdoor fun. I felt fine. I was eating more than ever and I was catching up in school. Mrs. Armbruster had sent home note after note saying how well I was doing despite having been out of school so much. But I still had to stay in and rest. I was miserable and my friends began to think that there really was something wrong with me. Mom continued checking me every day and taking my temperature just to make sure everything was ok. And then one morning my temperature was 102.5. Oh no. No, no ,no! I’ve been a good kid, I don’t get in fights, I do well in school, come on! I fell right back to sleep.
The next thing I remembered was ol’ Doc Oliviera sitting on my bed looking at me. He was smiling this time. My eyes were red and I had a bad cough. “It’s the [English] measles this time, not to worry,” he said to everyone in the room. “He’s going to be extremely contagious this time so take extra precautions. As usual, aspirin and cool baths for his fever and make sure he gets plenty of fluids. Call me if his temperature gets to be higher than 104. I’ll start him out with a shot and he should be fine in a couple of weeks.” I didn’t have the strength to complain. I was a pro at this. But my sisters were in high school and they were really getting tired of their baby brother getting all the extra attention. Janis had gotten the chicken pox from me but neither of them had gotten the mumps.
I really don’t remember much about the first week with the measles. High fever does that to you. I do remember the cold water in the bathtub and the constant shivering. By the second week, Mrs. Armbruster was checking in with some schoolwork for me. I wasn’t able to do much of the work because I kept falling asleep. In the weeks following, I would notice a pale look to my mother. She looked tired but as I later found out, also very strained from everything that had happened. She never contracted any of the diseases I had brought home but she hadn’t had much sleep in the previous 12 weeks either. Neither of my sisters had gotten the measles and they were hopeful that this would be the end of the series of quarantines in the house.
There were only three months left in the school year when I returned this time. To my friends I was a hero. I had survived the ‘big 3’ all at once and despite the warnings of their parents, all my friends were glad to see me. Schoolwork was the hard part. Essentially, I needed to do twice as much work just to pass the 2nd grade. I did manage B’s and C’s for the most part but there were many meetings among Mrs. Armbruster, my parents, and the school principal about the situation. Ultimately everyone agreed that I would be ok in 3rd grade.
And so, I sat looking out the window as it rained. We were lucky enough to have a television but there were no programs on it during the day. And so some indoor games had to be played or some trouble had to be found. Such was life when you were spending your last few weeks of summer before entering the 3rd grade.
© J T Weaver
Click anywhere to cancel