When I was a kid, being sick was so much fun! For one, you got to stay home when your siblings had to go to school. Ha! For two, no chores. For three, Dad might bring you home a little prize—a bookmark or a keychain or some giant paper clips from work.
During the day, you’d lie on the couch, and Mom would let you watch game shows as she folded laundry. Then she’d stir up some Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut in half diagonally to show that this was a special day, and what was nicer than that?
That being said, I had to be really, really sick to stay home from school. Fevers had to be above 101, and puking the night before guaranteed you nothing. Earaches, colds, sore throats, runny noses, cough…please. Mom never got sick, crediting her “100% Hungarian blood,” so we halflings and our imperfect immune systems irritated her. I can still hear her disappointed sigh every time the doctor said, “Yep, it’s strep.”
She was quite sympathetic if we were, in fact, projectile vomiting or delirious with a high fever. It was the “I don’t feel good” complaints that irked her. Being under the weather was not something her strong Hungarian stock tolerated. My dad, on the other hand, introduced me to the concept of catching a chill, something I have lovingly succumbed to many times ever since.
My brother and sister were better at convincing Mom of their illnesses than I was (alas); my brother could do the “scratchy throat” voice to perfection, and my sister was a fae little creature, unlike my strapping farm-girl self. So if I wanted to stay home, I had to go to the more indulgent parent, the one who was a hypochondriac himself.
The trick was to catch Dad early, since he left for work at the crack of dawn. I’d lie in bed, waiting, waiting…“Daddy,” I’d say weakly the second I heard his footsteps, “I don’t feel so good. I don’t think I can go to school.” (Note to children everywhere: Daddy always works better than Dad.)
His sympathy was instant. A paternal kiss on the forehead, a rearrangement of the blankets, the promise of a prize when he got home, and bam! I was all set. My mother’s expression would be less than pleased. Oh, she knew! She knew I could’ve made it through the school day! She could tell by my smug smile as my daddy left for work. “So it’s you and me,” she might sigh, giving in to her middle child’s endless need for nurturing. And the good times, as the saying goes, would roll.
Thanks for putting up with me, Mom! By the way, I have bronchitis. Think you could heat up some soup?