A small child lies sick in bed upstairs. She is pale, but can’t help looking pretty, with long, brown hair streaming carelessly about her shoulders and those blue eyes of hers so quiet and subdued. Even though she is under quarantine, her brothers and sisters can’t resist her. One brought up a plate of Saltines, another a lukewarm ginger ale; still another is curled up on the floor at the foot of her bed, joining her in listening to a recording of “Ballet Shoes.”
The sick child seems contented enough. She was in far worse shape yesterday. Today is a recuperation day, and recuperation is comfortable in its way. My mind returns to my own sick days as a child. My mother would always bring a tray with toast and tea. She made tea better than anyone else in the world and never failed to serve it in a pretty, thin-rimmed cup. She was generous with both sugar and milk, so that a slushy coating of sweetness always remained at the bottom of the cup.
Sick days brought the childhood horror of cherry syrup medicine, but the good outweighed the bad. I remember being set up like a queen in my mother and father’s great bed with pillows at my back and blankets all around. While other kids toiled away down the street at St. Mary’s, there was I watching The Magic Garden and Joya’s Fun School. I can still remember Joya singing to a puppet, “Button up your overcoat when the wind is free. Take good care of yourself; you belong to me.”
My mother sometimes told the story of her earliest memory. She was two or three years old and woke up in a crib in the hospital. The nurses were gathered around her, and one of them said in a soft, sweet voice, “Hello Alice, how are you feeling?” Then she held up a white, lace nightgown and said, “Do you see this lovely gown? It is yours and I am going to get you ready to see your Mother and Dad.” My mother always told that story with a smile. It was the only thing she remembered about getting her tonsils out, that and the joy she felt in wearing that pretty, white gown.
How beautiful is childhood, when even little illnesses can bring lasting, happy memories, when any novelty holds interest, and when an innocent little heart is so easy to please. I must sign off from writing for the moment. My little patient upstairs could probably use a cup of sweet tea served in a rose-sprigged cup.