The year my daughter was 8 years old, Mother’s Day did not go as planned chez Hawkins, let me tell you. We were all set to take off for the standingwomen.org event, when Daughter said her throat hurt. She opened her mouth and I looked at her throat and her tonsils were like boulders. And red. So was her tongue and the surrounding oral real estate. The thermometer said her temperature was 100.9 and she didn’t look at all well. So the male contingent went back to reading their books and Daughter and I went to the pediatric practice where her doctor is. He wasn’t there, but when I phoned, the doctor on call said she’d meet us there.
Three hours later, Daughter was officially diagnosed with Strep. The doctor who saw her seemed very chipper for someone who had been called out on Mother’s Day. Maybe she doesn’t like her kids or doesn’t have any. I dunno. Daughter, on the other hand, was not happy about missing out on an event we’d been planning for weeks. Having someone poke her sore throat with a stick didn’t improve her mood and she started to create as they say in Maine.
“I’m not gonna take any pills,” she said, defiantly.
“Then you won’t get better,” the doctor said cheerfully, “And your Strep could go into something worse like Rheumatic Fever.”
“I don’t care if I get Dramatic Fever,” my little curmudgeon said, “I hope I do get it and give it to everyone else in the world.”
“It’s Rheumatic Fever,” I said, “You already have Dramatic Fever, but there isn’t a pill for it. I’ve had rheumatic fever and, trust me, you don’t want it.”
She almost dislocated her eyelids, rolling her eyes and we left to get the prescription for Amoxicillin. At the store, I told her that she needed to stay away from people so that she wouldn’t give them her germs. She merely curled her lip and sighed and pulled her hooded sweatshirt up around her neck until only her eyes were showing. She looked like Little Red Riding Hood channeling Lucrezia Borgia.
As we sat in a couple of wooden chairs, waiting, a woman sat down on the far side of me and Daughter stood up and dragged her chair as far away from us as she could. The woman looked puzzled, but smiled at Daughter, who put her arm in front of her hooded face and said, in a muffled voice, “Don’t look at me or you’ll get Dramatic Fever.”
“She has Strep,” I explained to the woman, “I told her to stay away from everyone and she’s taken it to heart.” The woman said she understood. She had a daughter who’d had Strep. I wondered if her daughter could possibly have been as histrionic as my daughter while having Strep. I wondered if anyone’s daughter is as histrionic as mine. She’s the only daughter I’ve had for any length of time, so I don’t have any comparison.
I’ve had foster daughters, but none of them were with us for more than a few weeks, so it’s hard to say if they would have developed into mini Bette Davises or not. I was a daughter, of course, but I wasn’t an actor. I was more of an adventurer and amiable most of the time. Besides, my mother tended to whack us upside the head if we “carried on” as she called it, which kind of nipped in the bud any histrionic tendencies we had. Different times.
The rest of the day was interesting shall we say. Lunch was chicken noodle soup and Daughter said her throat hurt so much that she could only “slither” some noodles, no chicken or carrots, because “you can’t eat square things when you have Dramatic Fever.”
“It’s Rheumatic Fever and you don’t have it,” I said.
Then in an attempt to lighten things up, “Hey, it could be worse. You could have Instamatic Flu like Little Peggy Ann McKay in the Shel Silverstein song. Maybe some ice cream would make your throat feel better.”
“Ice cream won’t, but gelato will,” she said, “The only ice cream we have is cookies and cream and the cookie part would rip my throat to shreds.”
So I gave her a bowl of gelato and hoped that there were no ice crystals in it or cue the bloodcurdling cries of throats being shredded. Apparently there were none and the gelato disappeared a lot faster than the soup had. “Did it help?” I asked.
“Maybe. Do you think it froze any of the germs?”
“Maybe,” I answered. “Let’s hope so. But the pills will start killing them right away. In a couple of days, you won’t be contagious anymore and you’ll feel a lot better.”
She sighed heavily. “Or I’ll choke to death on a pill. I wish I didn’t have to take them.”
“You don’t want to get Dramatic Fever, do you?” I asked, smiling.
“I think I already have it,” she said. “Boy, what a kick in the Mother’s Day pants this is!”