Imagine this scene.
Eight children sprawl limply on chairs, a Chesterfield and on the rug surrounded by pillows, comforters, and favourite stuffed toys. Everyone is moaning on and off with fever, lethargy, and itchy spots that are driving them crazy.
I dole out acetaminophen, rotate who gets an oatmeal bath (that brings temporary relief), continue the never-ending task of dabbing calamine lotion on chicken pox spots and in between these nursing chores, I scramble to fetch drinks and light snacks from the kitchen.
That was what my house looked like for Epidemic Week when chicken pox attacked my children.
The youngest three had light cases but the older kids were utterly miserable with pox in their ears, nose, and hair. The oldest kids had at least 175 spots on their backs alone. As they began to feel better, I lined kids up literally in a row so they could put calamine lotion on each other.
Desperate times call for creative thinking
Human beings are never given a warning before calamity strikes. If I had an inkling of the trouble that would be unleashed by allowing Jean to go on her first babysitting job over at the neighbour's house, I would have vehemently screamed,
Jana, our neighbour, and I were confident that with her baby asleep, Jean would be fine with just a toddler to keep happy and tuck into bed. She left the house excited to finally get paid for what she had done for years at our house (while I was at home, of course). Four hours later, Jean called home frantically; both children were whimpering and crying, flushed with fevers and she had rocked both of them for hours. I gave her permission to give them a dose of tempera. Next day, Jana called; the babies had chicken pox but only a light case . We were not so fortunate.
However, there is a bright side to this story.
Claire was the first child back at school. She loved school and was always very conscientious about homework. As I saw her trudging home up a long lane which had not been even cleared of snow yet, I noticed she looked like a beast of burden. This tiny girl, in grade one, was carrying five school bags stuffed with textbooks and notebooks.
As she came through the door, she cried out in a happy voice,
"Hey, everybody! Look what I brought home- all of your homework so you can get caught up!"
I admired her diligence, but four other people just complained and groaned loudly,