4. 2nd Grade at Sippican

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.


My Crockett outfit, Boone hat and my Grandfather

“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.

December, 1957

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

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About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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31 Responses to 4. 2nd Grade at Sippican

  1. Wow! Sad, sickly SEVEN! Sounds like Pandora opened her plague box! For such an active child, this must have been unbearable, both physically and emotionally. Rain over pain any day! Sigh. And poor Mrs. Armbuster (ha ha)! Think of all the work you created for her! just kidding…. Sounds like you were in great hands in spite of your belief system about doctors by the end of this school year! Phew!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa says:

    Oh wow, the memories just resurrected. The Davy Crockett ‘killing a b’ar’ lunchbox that horrified my mother. The calamine lotion drying over my chicken poxed skin so that it looked like the desert. Three of us six kids with the mumps at the same time. And, I’m proud to say, I was the only girl in second grade with a coon skin cap. Thanks for bringing this all back in such a great essay.


    • J T Weaver says:

      I’m really glad you liked it. I still have my leather fringed jacket [pictured] and I have an official Davy Crockett coffee cup [it was suitable only for Ovaltine at the time]. Those were the days.


  3. The Overlord Bear says:

    I remember getting chicken pox when I was a kid…Well, I wasn’t sure if it was chicken pox back then, but my parents told me that it was. I remember having it along with my mother, too. I had to stay in another room in order to avoid spreading it to my other family members. Boy, it was annoying for me back then because I couldn’t get to move around the house! I was a pretty restless boy back then, you know…


  4. Most amusing and enjoyable post – how unfortunate to get all of those doses in such a short time – the trails of being 7! I shall never forget mumps- to this day I cringe when I think of trying to swallow and I think I was in bed for about a month!


    • J T Weaver says:

      Thank you very much. Yes those doses [penicillin] took a terrible toll later. But that’s another story … yet to be written, maybe someday when I’m ready.

      I appreciate your stopping by and I hope you’ll find more stories that you enjoy here.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Great story. I did not see that third setback coming. What a year for your mom, and you!
    Love the coon hat. It reminds me of a summer trip to Nova Scotia a few years ago when my son saw one and insisted he had to have it. It was made of big puffy acrylic, and despite the blazing August sun, he wore it everywhere. He was so proud, and he got a lot of smiles wherever we went. Makes me smile to think about it.


  6. Benmo says:

    Oh my. Your memories are a treasure trove of cultural significance. Not the least of which is Dr. Oliviera’s house calls… on three separate occasions due to your body’s great magnetism for illness! Your poor mother. It’s a wonder Dr. Oliviera didn’t need to make a house call to treat her for extreme fatigue or a nervous breakdown.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Great story. I was not expecting that third go-around. Love the coon hat picture. It reminded me of when my son insisted on one when we were in Nova Scotia a couple of summers ago. Same idea, but made from some big puffy acrylic fur. He couldn’t have been more proud, and he sure got a lot of smiles.


  8. you are an inspiring me to expand my cryptic short stories into longer chapters..absorbing writing style that draws me in


    • J T Weaver says:

      Thank you very much Melanie. That is very kind of you to say. When I was writing these early stories, that later became chapters, I had no thoughts of later assembly into a book. They were intended to be both stand-alone and part of a larger story all at the same time.


  9. That’s so awful! To get all 3 one right after the other. But at least you got it over with all at once and still passed 2nd grade. I think that’s the amazing part! You must have done a lot of studying while lying in the bed all day!
    I really enjoy reading about your memories.


  10. mixedupmeme says:

    Meals in bed and everyone waiting on you. 🙂
    I taught 2nd grade for many years. But by then it was rare to see a case of chicken pox, measles or mumps. Unfortunately there are some today unwilling or not wanting to give their children the vaccine.


  11. tchistorygal says:

    Wow, you really did have a triple dose of the worst there was at the time. Your poor mom. When Randy got the chicken pox, I didn’t get them, but my dad did. I remember all the folks at his job sent him a get well card, and decorated the sick person with tons of dots. We did get mumps together, but I only had half a dose. I felt so well, when mom went to the store, I took out my roller skates, and skated around the kitchen till she got back. I was so bored! 🙂 I had measles when I was too young to remember much, I think kindergarten. Yes, you are definitely memory lane for me! 🙂 I’m going to stop here, and come back later. Thanks for sharing. You are an excellent writer, and storyteller. 🙂 The pictures are great, too! 🙂 Marsha


    • J T Weaver says:

      The one I didn’t have, the worst of all, was polio. I knew many then that did. Then when the Salk vaccine became available, we all got shots, no questions, no arguments, just get in line please. Thank you so much Marsha for reading and your thoughtful comments.


      • tchistorygal says:

        Fortunately for those of us born in 1951 or so, the vaccination all but wiped it out. So many people just a bit older than we are suffered with it. You were lucky – 3rd’s a charm! 🙂


  12. I can’t imagine getting all three back to back like that. I had chicken pox before my long term memory kicked in.
    However, during those times of illness, how did you entertain yourself? I know that when I would get a cold and had to stay home from school, I would end up with a pile next to my bed of things I had gotten up to get to entertain myself but quickly bored of.


  13. Gallivanta says:

    So many memories. I think I had all 3 ,one after the other too. The best part was when I was well enough to eat the soft delicious food that was brought to me in bed. My brother had a Daniel Boone cap which I always thought would be fun to wear but when I was finally given a chance I found it very hot and uncomfortable!


  14. Lynne Ayers says:

    That brought back a lot of memories – I too had chicken pox over Christmas, had all my meals in bed brought by my mother while my father and sister dared venture no closer than the doorway. Mumps too. And measles. Pneumonia kept me out of grade 4 for a month. I remember those long hours in my room alone, my mother waking me in the night for a dose of medicine she had taken time to grind up in some honey to make it go down easier …


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