Friday, August 12, 2011

Ma, I'm Sick

I want to get something off my chest. When I didn't feel like going to school, I would take advantage of my mother's love for me by feigning illness. I was basically a very healthy kid, so I was rarely genuinely sick. That helped my credibility because when I said I felt sick,  Mom believed me. She would always gauge whether I had a fever by kissing my forehead. Then she'd say: "You don't feel warm, let me get the thermometer." Trusting soul that she was, Mom would always stick it under my tongue and go off to do something. This gave me time to rub the bulb of the thermometer rapidly back and forth across the bed sheet, thereby creating enough heat friction to produce a temperature. Once I overdid it and Mom nearly fell over when she read 105 degrees!

Staying home sick from school was one of the best boondoggles of childhood. I was pampered beyond belief. I felt a little guilty when poor Mom fussed over me, cutting the crusts off my sandwiches, bringing up a stack of comics for me to read, and later on, when we got our first television, fluffing up the pillows on the sofa while I watched mindless cartoons like Junior Frolics, Felix the Cat and Koko the Clown who always crawled out of the inkwell of his creator and onto the screen. Getting control of the TV was a real perk of feigned illness; my sister never got to watch what she wanted. Even if it was a show I enjoyed, I refused to put on any channel she wanted just for spite. Yes, I was a real dick.

Like most Italian and Jewish mothers, the number one remedy for anything that ailed you was chicken soup. This is not a myth but a sacred truth. If there was no other reason to fake illness, getting to eat Mom's chicken soup was reason enough. She made it from scratch with celery, carrots, and rice or small pasta like Orzo. The chicken fat you could skim off the top of the pot was thick enough to lubricate a small battleship, but that's what gave this soup its curative properties. I ate bowl after bowl topped off with Oysterette crackers. If Mom had any suspicions about how a kid who was so sick could have such a voracious appetite, she never let on.

I think by the time I was in high school, Mom had wised up. She packed me off to school no matter how much I whined. This called for a strategy shift; how could I dupe the school nurse into sending me home sick? There were a few "sure-fire" tricks that would get the job done according to some of the seasoned delinquents in my class. One was to put a penny under your tongue along with the thermometer. Other than satisfying any curiosity about what a penny tastes like, this never worked. Another was to put an ink blotter in your shoe. In the days before ballpoint pens, we used ink blotters to keep the blue-black ink in our fountain pens from smearing. Another bust. Finally, I took to just playing hooky and writing excuse notes from home to cover my absences. Yes, I know, a dick.

As a teen, I had a promising career as a forger. For instance, I could draw great replicas of  bus or subway passes and would sell them to kids who had lost their real ones. I could also imitate my mother's handwriting perfectly, and so writing excuse notes was a breeze. This ruse went swimmingly until one time when I made a spelling error on a note, realized it and stuck it in one of my text books. I wrote out another note and it was accepted as usual. Unfortunately, the first note slipped from the pages of my book and some do-gooder found and turned it in. Somehow the attendance office matched up the two notes and the jig was up. My parents were called to school and my poor mother was shocked to find out how many excuse notes she had written. This little caper prompted the guidance counsellor to suggest (demand) that I transfer to another school.

Once in a while I'd stay home sick from work, and found that the thrill of getting away with something had not diminished. I finally wised up and gave up my criminal ways, in fact, later in my career I prided myself on getting to work no matter how lousy I felt. I only wish Mom had been around to witness my redemption.


Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment: said...

i like it, thanh for share , you can visit htpp://