Sunday, May 11, 2014

A pox in our car

Our son Evan stared at us from the back seat in stunned silence.  

“You did it on purpose?” he asked after he’d had more time to process what we’d just told him.

“Sure.  Back then, everybody did,” my wife Kara replied.

It’s amazing how quickly you become an old person who can regale younger generations with fantastical stories about how backwards the world used to be.  I’m only thirty-six, but it’s happening already, and I haven’t even told Evan about rotary phones and the weather hotline yet.

We’d been discussing Evan’s upcoming date at the doctor, where he’ll need to get a booster shot for his chicken pox vaccine to complete his enrollment for kindergarten this fall.  We’ll put aside for the moment the fact that Evan will be getting on a school bus in a few months, because just thinking about that makes the room go all foggy.  Some might suggest that the room itself is not foggy, and that my expression of emotion makes it appear that way, but that is impossible, because I am a dude.

“I have to go to the doctor?  Will I need a shot?” Evan asked.  The sugar-free lollipop at the end of the appointment apparently does not erase memories of the preceding ten minutes.

“Doctor!” our two-year-old son Zack chimed in from his car seat.  Zack has spent his life to this point either listening to our conversations or, more likely, screaming over them, so it’s nice to have him trying to participate, which he does by choosing a random word he hears and screaming it.  It’s like having a really expensive parrot.

“You’ll need a shot, but just one.  It’ll be quick,” I said.

“Shot!” Zack screamed.

“But it’s gonna hurt!” Evan said.

“Not as much as having chicken pox,” I replied.

“What’s chicken pox?” Evan asked.

We spent the next several minutes describing the disease, which kept Evan’s rapt attention, since we were talking about something gross.  Something happens in the brains of boys between the ages of three and five, when their grossness receptors get activated and they go from innocent little angels to innocent little angels who sing songs at the dinner table about bodily functions. 

“Like a million mosquito bites?” Evan asked.

“Bites!” Zack screamed.

“Yup, but that’ll never happen to you,” I said.

“You’re really lucky, Evan, because back when we were kids, everyone had to get chicken pox.  You only got it once in your life, and if you waited until you were an adult, it’d be much worse.  So every kid had to get it once,” Kara said.

“How did they get it?” Evan asked.

“Well, if you didn’t catch it on your own, your parents would probably send you to play with a kid who had it,” she replied, which resulted in Evan’s disbelieving, if momentary, silence.

To add insult to malady, back then, we didn’t even have decent video games.  Even the luckiest kid only had an Atari, and you couldn’t possibly kill a whole week playing Q*bert.  To take our minds off the itching and try to keep us entertained, the best our parents could do was advise us to use our imaginations, which was a total dead end.

“Do you believe that some people choose not to get their shots?” I said, thinking of the exemption on the kindergarten registration form that allowed parents to opt out if they, for whatever sincere and genuine reason, didn’t feel like it. 

“Shots!” Zack screamed.

“Really?” Evan asked, perking up.

I thought we’d sold him on the shot.  He might never appreciate how much better kids have it now, but at least he’ll get a lollipop out of the deal.     
You can inoculate yourself against Mike Todd at

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