SICK WEDNESDAYS

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

It’s only Monday. I can’t be sick. Wednesday is my day.  The old thought crossed my mind as I pulled a Kleenex and blew my runny nose.

During the 1950s in Goshen, Indiana, Wednesday afternoons were special. The entire downtown closed its businesses.

One day, I was helping Mother wash the dishes and asked, “Why are things closed on Wednesday afternoon?”

She rinsed her soapy plate.  “Wednesday afternoon is ‘off’ to balance working on Saturday.” She handed it to me and began sudsing another. “Most jobs, like your teacher’s and workers at Penn Controls, don’t include  weekends.”

Daddy (left) talks with a customer.

Daddy (left) talks with a customer.

My parents worked at “The Bank.”  Salem Bank stood kitty-corner from First National at Main Street’s biggest down- town traffic light. Daddy sat at a big wood desk by the automatic glass doors. He discussed important matters with customers.

Mother worked at The Bank, too. During my growing up years, she had various jobs. She   helped people get in and out of their lockboxes at the walk-in vault. As a teller, she counted money, and kept stacks of little carboned pink receipts for all deposits or withdrawals.

I went to work, too. I did plus and minus and reading in Mrs. Heyde’s Second Grade.   Chandler Elementary School started at 8:30, so my folks and I left about the same time.  My lunch hour started at 11:25. We lived five minutes from the new red brick school.

I got home first, set the table and turned on the radio for “Our Gal Sunday.”  Mother’s favorite show started at 11:30.  They left work for lunch then and she listened to it on the car radio while Daddy drove them home.

Not wanting to miss more than a few words, Mother rushed in. She dropped her coat on a dining room chair as she hurried to hear the kitchen radio.

By the time Mother set milk glasses on the table, heated Campbell’s soup and made us sandwiches, “Our Gal” was over. After a man told how clean Rinso White and Rinso Blue made clothes, “The Guiding Light” started.

One Wednesday, I was slow washing up and Mother called me to the table. “Come eat!”

I shuffled in and pulled my chair up to the side of our chromed-legged kitchen table. Mother ladled tomato soup into our bowls and sat down, still listening to her show.

Daddy said the prayer and began using a big spoon on his soup. I propped one elbow on the table and leaned my head on it.  Stirring my soup listlessly, I muttered, “I don’t feel good.”

Mother’s spoon clinked her bowl and she leaned over to touch my forehead.  I saw her shoulders sag and she looked at Daddy. He glanced back, his spoon stopped half-way to his mouth.  He frowned in puzzle-ment. “What?”

“Fritzie’s sick.  Of course. It’s Wednesday. I might have guessed!”

I don’t know why I got sick on Wednesday. I never planned it.  Mother thought it strange bad luck.  She reminded Daddy, “Dr. Mary can’t be reached on Wednesdays. Not Doc Turner, either. “

She turned her attention to me. “Fritzie, go ahead and put on your pjs.”  She stood without finishing her soup. “I’ll get the sheets.”

As I left the room, Mother said to Daddy, “Frank, you’ll have to go to the grocery. I’ll make you a list.”

I knew what to do. As I pulled my flannel pajamas from under the pillow, I heard Mother on the phone downstairs. “This is Mrs. Frank Ridenoure. My daughter, Frances, won’t be back this afternoon. She’s sick.  Yes, Second Grade. Mrs. Heyde’s room.” 

I came back downstairs in my pjs and pink chenille robe, clutching my pillow. Mother was tucking a white sheet around the bottom cushions of the couch. When she finished, I plopped down and she covered me with another, adding the blue blanket with the satin edge.

Our only bathroom was downstairs. When I was sick, lying on the couch made it easier to use. And, in case I didn’t make it there when my stomach felt bad, Mother also laid pages of The Goshen News on the floor along the side of the couch.

Finished with the sick-set-up, Mother straightened. “OK! Time to check your temperature.” She shook the glass thermometer and squinted at it. “Under your tongue. Three minutes.”  She tipped her head and said sternly, “Leave it there.”

The glass stick tasted of bitter alcohol, but I did as I was told.  If I didn’t, she’d put the other thermometer up my butt!  I nodded my agreement.

“Alright then.” She turned back toward the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, “I’ll make you some tea.”

I closed my eyes. It felt good to lie down. Mother had started the three Ts: Temperature and Tea. Later there would be Toast.  I’ll get better.

 These days, I’m on my own with illness, but I still use the Three T’s.  Early comforts are long remembered.

Frances Fritzie

 

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