Friday, April 24, 2015

365 True Things: 27/Childhood

The only childhood disease I ever had was chicken pox. Supposedly I infected an entire family that was about to return home to Australia, at a farewell party my parents threw for them. At that moment, I can only assume, I was not yet showing signs of the illness—because otherwise the party would have been canceled, right?

Or I would have been sequestered.

But contagion sets in one to two days before symptoms appear. Nor did the family postpone their trip home—there again, I don't know why. Maybe they left before my condition became apparent. But over the years my father regularly managed to bring up "that time I spread chicken pox to the continent of Australia." He was such a card.

I have been hospitalized once, but not for illness. When I was maybe five or six, my family went on vacation to Colorado, near Gunnison. We were staying at a camp with scattered cabins, but there was also a central dining hall. One evening when we went to dinner, a collie was tied up outside. I petted it, and it licked me, very friendly. The next day, the same dog was tied up—or so I thought. Turned out it was a different dog, and it did not like children—or at least, it did not like me. It bit me in the face: got my nose and just below my left eye. (I was very lucky not to lose that eye.) I ran into the dining hall, blood pouring from my face. I can only imagine what my parents thought. I do not remember the trip to the doctor, but I'm told it was a long dirt road out to civilization, so I did not get help immediately. I do remember, after being patched up, looking in the mirror often to admire my Band-Aids, in primary colors of red, blue, and yellow and featuring space symbols—Saturn and comets and constellations.

Eventually the wounds healed, but the scars were coarse and bumpy. The final treatment was plastic surgery: hence the hospital visit. There, I remember counting backwards from 10 to, oh, 9, as the anesthesia kicked in. And I remember ice cream, lots of ice cream, and feeling lucky because I didn't have to have my tonsils out to get it.

Many of these "memories" may be pure fabrications. Maybe the Band-Aids were from after the plastic surgery, and maybe they didn't feature comets and such—but I'm fairly certain about the mirror and the bright colors. Maybe the Australians actually postponed their trip, sparing the planeload of passengers—not to mention the entire continent of Australia. (But if so, why can I picture so well people covered with spots desperately applying make-up to their skins?) Maybe there was only one dog and it was a German shepherd. And do I really remember Neapolitan ice cream? I don't know. But those are the stories that are lodged in  my head.

I did, definitely, get bitten by a dog, though: I have the scars to prove it. And fortunately, the plastic surgery worked like a charm. Today, you'd never know I'd been badly marred. For several years after the operation, my father would regularly grab my chin and scrutinize the fading scars. I still remember his piercing blue eyes and that feeling of being inspected. Eventually, he stopped: satisfied, I guess, that I was still his beautiful little girl.

As for that chicken pox: it reminds me that I really should get a shingles vaccine.

(The image is courtesy of Paperfections by Sharon Harnist.)

1 comment:

  1. Memories are funny things… houses look smaller, things that haven't been seen for decades are more extravagant and pearl like. The best apple pie we ever ate was never even there. Weird how that works.

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