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Ah Ah Ah CHOO!

by Laura W. Haywood


Ah-Ah-Ah-CHOO I have a cold. I have all the usual symptoms: My nose is running, my eyes are tearing, I'm sneezing, I'm coughing, and I'm cranky. The trouble with having a cold as an adult is that life goes on. All the things that had to be done before still have to be done.

When I was a kid, things stopped when I had a cold -- which was why I didn't mind having a cold at all. In fact, I enjoyed it.

I got to stay home from school at the first symptom. If that sounds like over-protection, it was, but there was a reason for it. For one thing, my mother had lost two children before me (one born dead, the other through miscarriage). And she very nearly lost me. When I was 16 months old, I got pneumonia, and the only thing that saved me was that I was so sick, there was nothing to lose, so I was used as a guinea pig for the sulfa drugs that were just coming in. I had pneumonia twice more before I started school, so over-protection wasn't completely unreasonable.

I loved staying home from school because I hated school. I hated it for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I started school too young. My birthday is in January, and I started first grade the September before I turned six. I had a tough time in school. My maiden name is Weber and we were usually seated alphabetically, which meant I was usually in the back of the room. I struggled with schoolwork, particularly arithmetic. My first-grade teacher suspected what was wrong and suggested an eye exam.

My mother made an appointment with a reputable ophthamologist. He asked what the problem was, and I replied, "Well [whenever I started a sentence with well,' my mother knew trouble was coming], my teacher says it's my eyes, but my mother says it's my head."

He did a thorough exam and concluded my mother was right -- but he was wrong. I was in the seventh grade before I got glasses and realized for the first time that you were supposed to be able to see the blackboard. I never had.

So school was no joy for me, and a cold was a wonderful way out of it. I got to stay in bed, which has always been one of my favorite places. I usually slept past breakfast, but lunch (cream of tomato soup and a tuna sandwich or chicken soup and a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich) and dinner whatever the family was eating) were brought to me on a tray. My appetite never suffered when I had a cold. And, during the day, gallons of orange juice appeared as if by magic.

But the best thing about staying home was the radio. There were soap operas on all day, and it took me very little time to get hooked on Ma Perkins (who had a daughter named Fay, who was a real piece of work); Prudence Dane (I don't remember the story line, but the theme song was terrific); Our Gal Sunday (who was trying to find happiness as the wife of England's richest, most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrope, who, for reasons I never understood, was living in Virginia); Mary Noble, Backstage Wife (whose husband was a matinee idol -- and whatever happened to matinee idols? -- and who periodically gave her a pin; for a quarter and a box-top from something, you could get one just like it. When it came months later, it was a tiny piece of junk); Lorenzo Jones and his wife Belle (one of the few soaps that was funny); Portia Faces Life (the trials and tribulations of a lady lawyer); Helen Trent (who proved for heaven knows how many years that romance wasn't over when you hit thirty-five), Young Widow Brown (who ran a tearoom and kept her fianc, Dr Anthony Loring, waiting for years), and who knows what other ones I'm forgetting.

The trouble with listening to them was that I did get hooked, which meant I had another reason for not wanting to go back to school. My mother always promised to listen and tell me what happened, but she wasn't the soap opera type.

Does anyone know what happened on Our Gal Sunday the third week in October in 1945?


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