Pandemic Memory #3

Dina McQueen Pandemic musings

Chickenpox, 1973

The itching is insane. The bumps have popped up in my scalp, inside my mouth, eventually they’ll even erupt on the lips of my … um … vagina. As I moan inside the pounding of my own brain, I silently scream, When will this nightmare end?

Mother dabs puffy cotton balls drenched in Calamine Lotion across my back, the back of my neck, the tops of my feet. Midnight oatmeal baths, and the inescapable, relentless, when-will-this-end, this-will-never-end feeling of wishing I could leap out of my body.

My father brings Lifesavers Five Flavors & Butterscotch back with him from the pharmacy. I suck on ice, swallow red Jello, yellow Jello, nibble on warmed up white bread spread with margarine and cinnamon sugar. Tear soaked flannel pajamas unsuccessfully shield me from the unending suffering that has become my skin.

There was no vaccine. Chickenpox in the 1970s was a childhood rite of passage–the sooner you got it the better. Eleven was too late. Three weeks spent in front of a tiny black-and-white TV with no remote. When the bumps begin to dry out, crust up, picking scabs in places where nobody will see a scar is my new pastime. On my face, I struggle to keep my fingers away in an effort to let the scabs naturally drop.

One unfortunate morning, I wake up to the horror of a hole in my cheek–one prominently situated chickenpox fell off in the night. I’m ruined.

Dina McQueenPandemic Memory #3