Only the rotten apples fall from the tree…

             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.

It didn’t.

Her doctor told her, “Don’t worry. Only the rotten apples fall from the tree…

I was a seven pound, perfectly healthy baby.

With my parents. I’m about ten months old


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…”


Many thanks

  • 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…

About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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62 Responses to Only the rotten apples fall from the tree…

  1. Great story! Would love to read your memoir..and more of your mother’s life – from India to Africa?!!

    • dearrosie says:

      I’ve been “talking about” writing my memoir for years, and I started it here without realizing it…. very funny! With encouragement like yours it’ll be easy to continue the story. Thank you bodhisattvaintraining

  2. I sneaked in, even though today’s not my day to comment. And how happy I am I did that.
    You have indeed begun your memoir.
    I could read this over and over again and still find something that moves me. How beautiful are simply told tales! How clever of the doctor to recognise you. You’re no rotten apple! In fact the You in the picture is very ruddy (I can see it, even thought the picture is black and white) and wholesome. And the You today is an apple which normally helps people remain emotionally healthy. Thank you for being around and surviving in spite of the champagne diet and the warmbaths. (It must’ve been so difficult for your mother). What are warmbaths?

    Be well, dear friend. And write on.

    • dearrosie says:

      Of course I’m delighted that you sneaked in today because – as you always do – you left me such a kind, encouraging, thoughtful comment and one that is full of so many friendly apples. Thank you dear WW.

      It was difficult to tell the story in 350 words and I had to cut out so many bits and pieces but they weren’t necessary, it worked. (In my first draft I had 800 words!)

      I grew up hearing the doctor’s “only rotten apples fall from the tree” and my father’s “I’m going off my head” but my mother only mentioned her Mother’s non-appearance a few years ago.

      I always know you’re going to see things no one else notices and ask the questions that should be asked….
      What are “warmbaths”? It’s the name of a town about an hour away with natural hot springs -full of sulphur- [the rotten egg stink] that are supposed to have curative properties for ailments like arthritis. My mother believed in “natural remedies” so she went to sweat out the toxins.

  3. What an amazing story! I can’t believe your mum lived off sips of champagne. Interesting that the prompt for the piece was your earliest memory – that scene was so vivid and powerful.

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome to my blog gabrielablandy. Thank you for taking the time to leave me such an encouraging comment.
      It is amazing that she lived off sips of champagne isn’t it? I don’t know whether they had IV-drips in those days, and I never thought to ask my mom, but it’s too late now – she died last year.

  4. Val says:

    This is about you and your mum? If so… maybe the fibro was triggered by your mum’s illness?

    • dearrosie says:

      Yes this is my earliest memory. And it’s all true.
      A lot of doctors have speculated whether the typhoid may have triggered my fibro. I don’t know… I think I’m immune to typhoid fever.

  5. This is wonderful and so interesting from start to finish. Thank goodness all was well during your mother’s pregnancy with you and your delivery. So you’re #4 in birth order? I’m #2. My younger sister was #4 and the only one born in the States. So you were born in Africa? How interesting.

    • dearrosie says:

      A big thank you for the feedback Georgette. It’s good to know you found it interesting. It was a hard challenge with only 350 words because it’s such a large story – in my first draft I had over 800 words and had no idea how I’d be able to cut it down.
      I think you were born in Mexico? Yes this is a memoir so I shared my birth country. 😀

  6. sybil says:

    You remember being NINE MONTHS OLD ?

    This is a wonderful story Rosie. It must amaze you that you’re even here.

  7. A most compelling and moving story Rosie.

  8. bronxboy55 says:

    Rosie, I’m sure having a little girl like you got your Dad back on his head. You told this story with great insight, sensitivity, and humor — as you always do. I’d love to read your memoir.

    The rotten apples? Did the doctor really say that?

    • dearrosie says:

      Always a pleasure to read your insightful comments Charles. Thanks. My memoir has begun. Read my lips: I will finish it.

      It was difficult to share the whole story in only 350 words. Both my parents were very colorful characters and they used marvelous expressions you wouldn’t find elsewhere. My dad “going off his head” and the doctor’s “rotten apple” quote was one of the stories I was told all my life.

  9. shoreacres says:

    Sips of champagne? How strange and interesting. It must have been their version of 7-Up, which always was prescribed for us when a fever hit!

    Lovely vingette, and a most wonderful photo of you with your folks. I’ve never bumped up against typhoid, but I do happen to have my vaccination records here at the house just now. I’ve been vaccinated against polio, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera and typhoid – some, multiple times. People who question the value of vaccinations just seem so silly to me!

    • dearrosie says:

      I love Champagne but it wasn’t a one of my mother’s favorite drinks, perhaps it had bad memories for her? I can’t remember what she said why she was fed champagne.. I think it was something to do with it being pure? …

      We know we have to get all the vaccinations but have no idea that it’s because the illnesses are all life-threatening. It’s a good idea to check one’s vaccination records. Unfortunately as far as I could tell, Typhoid hasn’t disappeared. It comes up in places like India every year during the rainy season.

  10. That’s one heck of an earliest memory, Rosie! I can’t imagine living on sips of champagne, I’m amazed that they even had champagne on hand to administer! Thank you for this story, it’s such an interesting peek into your life.

    • dearrosie says:

      I can’t explain why I remember something from when I was so young. I think it’s most probably because I was so frustrated.

      Every time we went somewhere that Champagne was served my Mom would tell us the story of how that was the only “food” they gave her. Perhaps someone reading this can explain why to us.

      Thank you for your encouraging comment Madame W. It gives me confidence to carry on…

  11. souldipper says:

    When I saw your title, my heart sank… I thought, “Oh no! Surely no one said that her!”

    Then, I was into the story immediately – those siblings can be such a bother!! 😀 THEN I read the doctor’s words and saw the powerfully positive way the words were used. Such a beautifully spoken and clear message – what comfort.

    Yes, it would be terribly difficult for a father in that situation. But I also think of the endless hours your mother had to lie there thinking and worrying.

    Know what? In her 80s, my mom told me, after 4 children and numerous “miscarriages”, when she found herself pregnant with me at 38, she did attempt to bring on a miscarriage. She said, “You were determined to be born and thank God you were.”

    When I told some women friends this, they were shocked and thought I’d carry a “lump” about it. Au contraire! The fact that Mom knew she could tell me was a testament to the closeness, respect and understanding we had in our love for one another. I can not imagine what women went through with no legal birth control methods and numerous pregnancies! Good grief!

    Yes, Rosie, so many seemingly ordinary lives would make extraordinary movies. Imagine if I could sit back and watch yours! What a thrill!

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for your enthusiastic reaction to my little tale Amy.

      I’m sure my mother must’ve worried about her family but I never thought to ask my her what she worried about while lying in the hospital.

      I don’t see anything wrong with your mother telling you when she was in her 80’s that she’d tried to bring on a miscarriage after discovering she was pregnant with you.
      I was told the story of how my mother went to Warmbaths and the doctor’s famous line about the rotten apples when I was very young… In fact it was one of the family stories repeated over and over again as I grew up.

  12. eof737 says:

    What a touching story… and I love how the doctor turned that popular phrase around… 🙂

  13. larooby says:

    I love good apples, ‘specially this one! Beautifully written piece, powerful, clear and concise.

  14. Wow, what an amazing story, Rosie! So you grew up in South Africa? I want to go there so badly! At any rate, can’t wait to read your memoir! Thank God you were a healthy baby!

  15. Wow. I love this. So happy to have found your blog!

  16. E Stickymonkeytrekker says:

    What a touching and personal invitation into your life! This is so compelling and beautifully written, and I do hope it’s the beginning of your memoir. I’d like to reserve a copy now, please — preferably in the audiobook version read by the author.

    The photo is lovely. It looks like your mother recovered very well after losing so much weight. And what a cute little girl you were!

    Amazing how you can know someone for years and still not have heard such a powerful story. I look forward to hearing more.

    • dearrosie says:

      Oh man e stickymonkertrekker you have always been so kind and supportive of my little dabblings. Thank you dear friend.
      An audio copy? Okee dokee!

      I can’t deny that this the beginning of my memoir. Funny how the words just tumbled out… I hope chapter two will please you as much 🙂

      It is a lovely photo isn’t it? Me cute? aw shucks…

  17. aFrankAngle says:

    Wow … what a story … so many thanks for sharing … so which type of apple would best describe you?

  18. I love this!! And look how many comments you’ve gotten … it’s such a warm personal story with such an exotic twist!! I can’t believe the champagne diet, I need to try that! Thanks for sharing your earliest memory … it’s a beauty!!

    • dearrosie says:

      After reading this post my sister wrote me an email and said she hadn’t heard the champagne story. Isn’t that funny? I heard my mom repeating it a thousand times. We all remember something through our own glasses.
      My sister also said she only remembered me banging my head when we were in our big house – I was about two and a half when we moved there. I didnt realize I kept it up so long.

      Thanks Betty. I wish you safe travels to Malawi 🙂

  19. munchow says:

    I guess this proves that you are not a rotten apple… But besides that it’s indeed a very personal and touching story. I like the way you describe those early memories and pre-memories. I am actually impressed by the fact that you remember anything already from the age of nine month.

    • dearrosie says:

      oh my I feel so much better getting all this feedback that I’m not a rotten apple after all. 🙂
      It is interesting what we remember from our childhoods. I don’t know how long I kept up the head banging, my sister says I was still doing it after we moved to the “big” house (we moved there when I was two-and-a-half) but I only remembered that one time.

  20. This is a truly captivating beginning to your memoir, Rosie! It’s amazing that you can recall such an early memory – the level of your frustration must have made such a deep impression on you. Your mom was fortunate to have a kind and reassuring doctor, and I’m so glad you were born healthy. Your birth must have brought so much joy to your parents after all they had been through! Looking forward to reading more of your story.

    • dearrosie says:

      I had no idea that it was unusual to remember something from such an early age. I assumed everyone did. Funny eh?
      I was fascinated to read your comment that I must’ve brought joy to my parents after all they’d been through, because I never thought of it, but I’m sure you’re right. I’m sorry I can’t ask them…

      That doctor remained our family doctor and I carried on seeing him until I emigrated. We never spoke about the rotten apple story.

      Thank you for being so supportive and encouraging about my little story Barbara.

  21. First of all, Rosie, I am amazed that you have such early memories. My husband does, too, and I’ve always been fascinated. I don’t begin to have memories until I’m a preschooler. But I can’t imagine how hard your mother’s illness must have been for everyone. For her to leave her family behind and be so ill, and for your father to have so much responsibility and worry of his own. And the children…oh my gosh! You do have the beginnings of a fabulous memoir here! You really do. I hope you’ll continue! 🙂 D

    • dearrosie says:

      Debra I’m so happy to hear of someone else with early memories because I was beginning to feel like a charlaton… It’s interesting and I don’t know why I only remember the one time because I apparently did it often.

      I’m so encouraged to carry on writing after getting such a great response. Thank you Debra. One of the joys of blogging is I didn’t have to sit around and wonder whether I had a story or not, because the comments came in within the hour of my posting this.

  22. Rosie, I always manage to come in near the end of comments, when everyone has commented so eloquently. I’m at a loss for words, once again, but just have to agree that your story is truly amazing. Keep writing your memoir – no pressure, but you can’t let your blogging friends down! 🙂 What struck me, given how close you were to your mother, is that you must have been the apple of her eye! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story – the world is a better place with you here as inspiration on many levels.

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome back AA 🙂
      You may think you were at a loss for words but you hit a bull’s-eye with your comment. I’m sure I must’ve been the apple of my mother’s eye. (((sigh)))

      I think I will have to let my blogging buddies down if I carry on with my memoir because I won’t have time to write, and blog.

      • Thank you for the welcome back, Rosie! Oh, dear – a memoir vs. blogging. What have we done?! Maybe you could tease us once a week with a brief post on how the memoir is coming along? We’ll be a great group of cheerleaders! 🙂

  23. Thanks for sharing these events and letting us in into your childhood memories. Now that I’m getting old, I too appreciate the value of remembering both the good and the bad of my past. And yes, we need to write them now before we start forgetting. Wonderful post.

  24. Arindam says:

    It’was a heart touching story, Rosie Auntie. Thank you for believing us and having faith in us to share such a personal chapter of your life.

    One of my close people in my family contracted typhoid fever during his childhood days. And during those day, medicines were not available in our part for it. So due to this fever his mind could not mature with time. But he was a wonderful person. I have spent 17 years with him and what my siblings and parents tell me that, when I was a child, he was not allowing anybody to take me away from home. He died in 2002. He was a person with a wonderful soul, but unfortunately typhoid took away the growth of mind from him. I have so many memories attached to him that I can never ever forget those precious moments of life.

    • dearrosie says:

      As you noticed this is one of the most personal posts I’ve shared here. Thank you for acknowledging it Arindam.

      I was very touched to hear the story of your relative who contracted typhoid, “though he recovered the fever affected his brain”.
      You were fortunate to have such a close connection with him. Stories like yours illustrate how seriously ill my Mother was.

  25. sonali says:

    Dear Rosie, I never knew typhoid was so contagious. Its quite sad to know the time your mother went thru’ earlier. But definitely you are the lucky one. You are a very strong apple. You look very cute in the picture. Thanks for sharing the story.

    • dearrosie says:

      It’s interesting that my mother carried the typhoid bacterium in her for so many years before finally getting the fever. I knew typhoid was a serious illness because we still get inoculated against it, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until I read Arindam’s comment (just before yours) about his relative who was left brain damaged after he recovered from typhoid. I feel tremendously fortunate that my mother recovered.

      Thanks for popping over and taking the time to leave me a comment.

  26. Robin says:

    What an interesting story, Rosie. I think you do indeed have the beginnings of a memoir here. I’m so glad you’re a healthy and strong apple. 🙂

  27. A great story! I haven’t thought of what my first memory is – but I was definitely older than that.

    • dearrosie says:

      I hadn’t realize it was all that unusual to remember something from such a young age. Apparently I banged my head many times but this is the only occasion I remember.

  28. Kathy says:

    You HAVE begun your memoir, Rosie, and now we’re all fascinated to hear more. You write in such an intriguing way! So glad you share your stories.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for your feedback Kathy. I know shorter is better especially on a blog post, but it wasn’t easy to fit all the information into the 350 word challenge – my first draft came out at over 800 words – so I ended up writing short simple sentences.

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