My earliest memory is of banging my head on the floor while my three older siblings laugh. Though about nine months old, I remember my frustration at their teasing, I can’t speak, can’t tell them to shut up, I can only bang my head.
About eighteen months before I was born my Mother contracted typhoid fever. As it’s extremely contagious, she was sent to an isolation ward in the fever hospital in our African town.
Fearing an epidemic, the health department checked the house, and where Mom shopped. She was the original “health-food nut“, who bought her vegetables from a “market-garden” farmer, and drove thirty miles for goat’s milk.
Though the tests came back negative – perhaps she’d picked up the bacterium in India where she was born, and lived until she was twenty – people crossed the road outside our house, and avoided the children.
During her three-month hospitalization, Mom couldn’t phone, or write letters. She simply disappeared.
Until the fever broke, her only “food” was sips of champagne. No surprise she went down to eighty pounds (from one-hundred-and-fifty). Once she could stand at the window, Dad brought the children to wave from the street below.
Though my grandmother lived in the same town, she “cried on the verandah,” instead of taking charge of her daughter’s household.
Dad tried his best, but anxiety about his wife, and caring for three small children – my sister was two, my brothers six and eight - made him into a nervous wreck. He told everyone, ”I’m going off my head,” (Both my parents used unique expressions ).
The African nanny took charge. Luckily.
Photos of my siblings during that period show their sadness. After Mom returned home there was a slow recovery for everyone. Six months later she discovered she was pregnant. Terrified that the baby wouldn’t be normal because she wasn’t strong enough, Mom went to “Warmbaths” hoping that bathing in the hot sulfur would cause a spontaneous abortion.
Her doctor told her, “Don’t worry. Only the rotten apples fall from the tree…“
I was a seven pound, perfectly healthy baby.
For more information on typhoid, click here
I was inspired to write this post by Write to Done “Unmissable articles on writing,” who challenged us to write
a personal story of 350 words starting with the phrase, “My earliest memory is…”
- to Mahalia for interviewing Granny for me
- and my blogging buddy Amy at SoulDipper who told me about Write to Done‘s challenge.
My goodness it looks as though I’ve begun my memoir…