According to my diary, on Feb 3rd of last year, I was swimming with my mother in Florida. Today, I am not swimming with my mother in Florida and the only way I was able to contain my grief was to make a pot of soup. The soup she used to make for me when I had bronchitis, a yearly event from age 2 to 15. A sickly child, the soup propped me up for a few months as did the treasured week-long break from the torturous mundanity of a classroom. I was able to relapse quickly by sitting in a snowbank at recess without my coat or just plain willing my throat sore.
The luxury of bed, books and soup made even a severe strep infection tolerable. A bronchial pneumonia was easy. I was not forced to sit in a chair and listen to the monotonous high pitched voice of a tired teacher as she tryed to drill, drill, drill equations, historical dates, vocabulary, multiplication tables, periodic tables into my sore, sensitive, dreamy brain. A brain that wanted to read and write and be left alone. No such luck back then. After a few years my immune system betrayed me and I was unable to conjure up a legitimate symptom.
So, I started getting big pus dripping boils on my ass. Firey red, pulsing pores became cavernous volcanic explosions inside my underwear. Doctors made house-calls then. My mother would hold me down, face in a pillow, while the doctor squeezed and drained the white, thick pus. I managed to turn and look. He was squeezing a long ribbon of toothpaste out of my ass. I found it fascinating and felt special.
The boils lasted for weeks, one after another. I was sent to school with a gauze bandage on my bottom. The puss would soak through the bandage and onto my seat. I writhed and waddled. I was soon home again, in bed with a book. Soup on the stove. My mother, of course, knew that I was, in some way, pulling a fast one but school testing had revealed that I was “slow” and I think she felt sorry for me.
Today, I make the soup for myself. She is not here to share it with me and it cuts me deep to think that she had to feel sorrow because I was “slow”. But on some level she knew otherwise. She insisted I be kept in the advanced classes, with my friends, and not kept back, no matter how lousy my grades were. She didn’t know how to help me but she stood back and gave me the freedom to survive by my own wits and the skin of my pants. It was a tough dance, but I learned to leap and land on my feet. Even now, I do not know my multiplication tables and that is the least of it, but I can survive and I wish my mother were here to see it, especially now that I have been diagnosed and have begun treatment for ADHD.