When I was in eighth grade we went to Sweden for Christmas. We were all so excited, because since we'd emigrated to America (when I was in third grade), what we'd done to visit our dear Farmor and Farfar was to spend parts of the summers there. They of course had come to visit us for extended stays, but getting to go back, in winter, was just so exciting for us. If I'd known what was going to happen though, I might not have been so excited.
It all started innocently enough. My sister and I are closer than close, and for a couple of nights she'd come into my bed for comfort. I'd held her, and soothed her, and made her feel safe. It's not that my parents wouldn't have done this, it's just that to this day, we are more than the bestest of best friends. She wanted me. She had a fever, and just didn't feel right. But we had expensive plane tickets, and Farmor and Farfar were so excited to receive us with the traditional bouquets and love. So away we went.
About two days into our three week stay, Sissie was diagnosed with chicken pox. That sure can put a damper on your vacation! Here my parents were, with the obligation to go to at least two “coffees” a day,( if you don't know the implications of that, go here) but not wanting to infect anyone else. As a parent, I now can appreciate their predicament more vividly. So Farmor and Farfar stayed with Sissie, and DataBoy and I went with them to the parties. (Though he's DataBoy now, at that time he was seven year old cutie pie) All was well until I got some acne. Some really weird acne. Some NOT acne. Some chicken pox. Expletive! And DataBoy wasn't feeling so hot either. Though a very agreeable, adorable child, he was, at this point, not so much the agreeable one. I can't imagine my parents dismay as they are on this long-awaited vacation, and all of their kids are sick. Not just normal sick. But “we won't let you fly home” sick.
I won't use this venue to pontificate about customs procedures, but my parents came up with a brilliant plan. A very workable plan. I was in eighth grade. Eighth graders have acne. My pox, if remarked upon, would be acne. (And I had a totally fabulous turtleneck that hid all the “acne” on my neck.) Meanwhile, let's make the best of this.
What followed was two weeks of unbearable misery. As a teenager, I had the most severe case. I had the pox ALL over my body, in my ears and nose, and they had only about a millimeter between them. I was one big itch. And there was nothing to be done. Yeah, we tried the calamine lotion, and the oatmeal baths, but nothing helped.
The other unbearable result was that I wasn't able to visit my friends. I'd been to confirmation camp that summer, and had made some really close friends. We'd been writing to each other, and the August 4th Club had lots planned. (Amazingly, the four of us all had the exact same birthday!) Now I wasn't going to be able to take the ferry to the tiny island where Maria lived. (And Toby, my very first boyfriend. But that part my parents didn't know.) I wasn't going to be able to go to the farm where Ann lived. I wouldn't see the horses Helene had told me so much about. And I wouldn't be able to hug Suzanne. Suzanne who was bravely recovering from severe anorexia. She'd sent me a few pictures, but I wanted to see her in person and tell her how brave I thought she was. My grandmother arranged a great surprise, though. Those girls, luckily, all had already had the chicken pox, so they could come to me! It was a really, really nice party.
There was one other good thing in all of this. To this day, I still savor the memory of my Dad putting me to bed with chicken pox. My Dad wasn't able to hug me, it was just too painful, so he'd touch the tip of my nose. “I love you. I'd give you bigger hug, but there's no other place without a pox. ” It became our touchstone. Even once I was well, if he wanted to communicate love, all he had to do was rub the end of my nose. We both knew. And he still does that to this day.