Thursday, December 06, 2007

When I had chicken pox

When I had chicken pox, I was 8. We lived in a little house a block off a major street, near where Mom had grown up. I walked to school 4 blocks every day. I loved school; I remember learning to read the letters of the alphabet in kindergarden, the teacher showing us a picture of an apple and saying "A is for apple." Being bumped up to 2nd grade for math, because I was that far ahead of the other kids.

I didn't wear glasses yet; we didn't know I needed them. Everything further away than a book was a blur. My sister and I played on the train tracks nearby, and ate blackberries growing along the railroad right-of-way. There was a hamburger joint on the other side of the tracks that we hung out around quite a bit, starting when I was 6 and she was 4. Also a foam rubber manufacturing plant; one time the manager gave us a piece of foam rubber, about an inch thick and 4 feet tall, cut in a silhouette of Snoopy from the Charlie Brown comic strip. We didn't have much. Mom used to take the government surplus meat or cheese (whichever we had that month) and grind it with pickle relish and mayonnaise to make a sandwich spread.

Mom tended bar at a place called The Barn or the Farm, something like that. I think she must have left us alone at night when she went to work, because I don't remember any babysitters, and she was always home after school. But she was gone mid-day, too, so maybe they let her work a split shift.

Sometime during the year I was 8, my sister broke both her legs and was in a wheelchair. I don't remember how it happened. Mom tried to make me push her wheelchair to school, but part of the walk was on gravel and I just wasn't strong enough. I remember raving at her angrily inside my head, while trying to push the heavy wheelchair over the gravel. I was so angry and frustrated. Didn't she know I couldn't do this? It only took the once for her to figure out, but I felt very put-upon.

When I had chicken pox, she just left me alone all day in the house, tucked up in her bed. I was scared and felt very sorry for myself. Nothing bad happened, though.