After the Fact: The joys of childhood


My young friend, Teri Leep, just had her tonsils removed. Teri was first my sister’s friend and grade-school classmate, so just celebrated her 60th birthday. They don’t remove tonsils as frequently or with as little provocation as they did when I was a kid, but we all survived with just a day or two of eating only ice chips and ice cream. Teri, I think, was hoping for a similar outcome, but prepared for a much longer recovery. She was pleasantly surprised, even though it was not the typical kid “walk through the park.”

Daughter Chris had her tonsils removed at 20. In the process of a longer-than-usual hospital stay in the pediatric ward (a consequence of overcrowding everywhere else), she also contracted chicken pox. She didn’t raise her head from the pillow except to moan and whimper for almost a week. They didn’t have such back when Chris was a tot, but I’m a great believer in childhood immunizations. And the flu shot. And, particularly for seniors, the pneumonia shot, too.

Now, I know some who will disagree, who have never had the flu shot and have never had the flu. Many more do not, for one reason or another, have their children immunized and will argue vehemently that it is more harmful to do so. At one time, certain shots were required when a child began school, others when they reached another age and boosters a year later. Now, I believe it’s a matter of choice or religious conviction.

Probably I’d be more convincing in my argument for immunizing children if I hadn’t enjoyed having the measles, frolicked through the mumps, and would have had more fun with the chicken pox had Micki and I not given them to my mother at the same time.  Not all kids thought having kid diseases were as much fun: I always had someone to share the joy. Either Micki caught it from me, or vice versa. And, later, we extended our generosity to our little brother, Lonny. But, as he wasn’t allowed in OUR room, Lonny had to suffer in solitude. He didn’t miss much because he didn’t like playing with dolls anyway.

I suspect a majority of those opposing immunizations were not yet born when polio terrorized parents of all social levels. Most only vaguely remember President Franklin Roosevelt, whose childhood encounter left him crippled for life. Later victims were consigned to an “iron lung.” The vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was, literally, a miracle. If a shot every fall would prevent cancer, how many of those “vaccine-opposed” folks do you think would be lining up at the pharmacy in Safeway? Or calling for appointments with their family doctor?

Elementary school age children are, I’m convinced, factories for germs of all variety, many deadly to adults. And they spread them with glee. I envision “Willie Wonka and the Factory of Germs and Viruses.” Teachers should be given “hazard pay.” Sunday school teachers should get extra credit in heaven. And “The Woman of the Year” should come from the ranks of those mothers who have juggled their way through raising a house filled with babies, toddlers and at least one kindergartener, all at the same time.

Large families are, by and large, a thing of the past. Who can afford the $100 plus cost of school supplies for more than two or three children, not to mention school clothes, new shoes and gym outfits? That alone makes a good argument for requiring school uniforms! “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the manual for efficiency written by Frank B. Galbraith, Jr., would look like just a preface to membership in “The Hundreds’ Club.”  And then, one kid gets the sniffles: Urgent Care doesn’t have waiting rooms with that many seats.

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