Chickenpox. It is a word that puts fear in the minds of all parents. They dreaded the thought of oatmeal baths and calamine lotion. And itchy, miserable kids. But, the parents also wanted to get it over with, so sometimes they would purposely expose their children to get it done. Today, many parents get to experience this because of the vaccine.
I was happy when Illinois Girl and Mrs. Tech Sergeant waited until the Good Chaplain came on active duty because I did not work outside the home. A year earlier, and it could have spelled disaster for us.
And thank God it happened at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, at a time when all the children in the neighborhood came down with chickenpox in a month. The epidemic perfectly portrayed what happens when military spouses step up to help each other out.
It started the day after I took a group of kids to the lake to see the geese. As we were walking home, one little girl stepped in a fire anthill. I quickly brushed off the ants and carried her to her house. The next day her mom called to say she had chickenpox. How do you get from fire ants to chickenpox? Clearly, they were separate incidents. The evening of the biting, the little girl was complaining that her stomach itched. Thinking maybe an ant had made it up that high, her mother lifted her shirt to find her covered in chickenpox. Her other two kids also came down with the pox soon afterward.
Kids started dropping like flies. We went a week before I noticed a spot on Mrs. Tech Sergeant’s chest and one on her back. Were they chickenpox? I waited a few days to see what would happen. No change. I called the neighborhood pediatrician, who came over. He couldn’t tell either but said if we gave her a warm bath, the blisters would probably come out if it was chickenpox. So I left the girls in the care of the Good Chaplain while I went with a neighbor on a hunt for oatmeal bath. When I returned, the rose was in full bloom.
For the next several days and nights, I stayed with my little blossom, making sure she didn’t scratch herself. We both felt stir-crazy. I called the doctor to ask if she could play outside. “Every neighborhood child is in a stage of chickenpox. As long as she isn’t running a fever, out she goes,” he said.
Unfortunately, she ran a fever on Halloween and couldn’t go trick-or-treating. If she’d felt well, she might have minded.
In the meantime, we mothers were near desperation with our itchy kids home from school for days on end. While our little ones napped or watched television, we would gather on porches to commiserate and cheer each other on. A nip of alcohol also might have occurred. Those whose children were further along in the epidemic assured the rest of us that it would be better soon. It was nice to talk to adults. And, of course, we ran errands for each other and kept everyone well stocked with oatmeal bath, passing along partially used boxes and buying more as needed.
As the epidemic wound down in the neighborhood, I realized Illinois Girl still hadn’t come down with them. Finally, both girls went to school on the first Monday in November, and that evening, sure enough, “Mommy, my stomach itches.” Here we go again. Illinois Girl’s case was twice as bad as her sister’s, but she recovered twice as fast. The following Monday, mothers in the neighborhood thanked God as all 20 children headed back to school.
We pulled together, helped one another, and made sure we each made it through with our sanity intact. That’s what we military spouses do.
Until next time,