Thursday, February 02, 2006

It Was a Bumpy Ride

This afternoon's M*A*S*H-fest on the Hallmark channel included the episode where Colonel Potter comes down with the mumps. I found myself thinking back to my own experience with the mump bumps.

It was 1962. I believe springtime. Second grade. The last time I can remember that I had boys vying for my attention. (One, who shall be referred to as BA, sent me an entire box of valentines. Sometime that year I gullibly fell for his ruse of wanting to tell me a secret, only to be surprised with a kiss behind the door he led me to. Ah, the good old days.)

One afternoon I felt bad and BA, bless his little black heart, suggested that I might have the mumps and that I could tell for certain if I would open my mouth as wide as possible and see how it felt. It felt terrible, and it was difficult to close my jaws once they were open. Even though his methodology was questionable, his diagnosis was correct. I had come down with the mumps.

This presented a quandry for our family. My mother had never had the mumps and my baby brother had health troubles for quite awhile after he was born and certainly didn't need mumps on top of his other problems. It was decided to quarantine me from them, keeping me in my room for the duration, tended to by my father who had already had the mumps as a child.

So I was restricted to my room. My parents rented me a television, which convinced me at an early age to always have a set in the bedroom. I had a radio, a big stack of books checked out of the library, as much potato soup as I wanted, and conversations with my mother at long distance through the wall. Being the little loner that I was, I really didn't mind the isolation all that much.

I remember those two weeks clearly. I would spend the morning listening to the radio and reading. I was happy to have my own television to watch, but keep in mind that was back when there was only one channel. KTBC, Channel 7. Uncle Jay in the afternoons. Potato soup by the gallon, first through a straw until I was again able to open my jaws.

Oddly, when I think of those two weeks, I remember the music. I clearly recall learning all the words to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (Kingston Trio) and "Greenfields" (Brothers Four), both of which must have been in the top 40 at the time because they were played every day at the same time. I can remember lying in my bed, looking out the window, and concentrating on those lyrics.

I don't remember pain or misery, so either I had a light case or I was having so much fun being the princess in the tower that it outweighed the negatives. And the funny thing is that it was all for naught. A few weeks later, both Mother and David came down with the mumps. Grandma came down from Gladewater to take care of us and I spent another two weeks being little miss pampered, seeing as how I was her only granddaughter at the time. I was concerned about the sick ward, but I was perfectly happy to be spoiled by a doting grandmother after two weeks of being cooped up sick.

Eventually things returned to normal and I became the authority on mumps, advising the other kids who were feeling poorly to open their mouths as wide as possible to be sure that was their problem. Grandma went back to Gladewater, which made Mother immediately feel better. And our practice of sharing a common water bottle in the refrigerator came to a halt. On reflection, we realized that our germs had been passing freely among us during what was probably my most contagious period. I think that's when I became so adamant that I would no longer drink or eat after anyone else.

I wonder if anybody else remembers the mumps as being a fun period of their life?


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