Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sick Days From School


A vaporizer like the one we had when I was a kid.

I’m writing from the height of what most are saying is a pretty nasty flu season. Both my wife and I have been sick this past week–either a nasty cold or mild case of the flu (maybe that flu shot helped)–not sick enough to see the doc. And this brought back memories of childhood illnesses.

You remember how it begins. A sore throat. You just want to sleep. everything hurts. Mom looks at you and sees it in your flushed cheeks, and that “peaked” look in your eyes. A feel to the forehead tells her you are warm. The thermometer, an old glass mercury one, confirms it. You’re sick, and you hear those magic words, “you’re not going to school tomorrow.”

Not that you are enjoying it much the first day. Until your fever breaks, you mostly want to sleep. Mom makes you drink a lot. You think you are going to wear a path to the bathroom. She says, “you got to flush all those bugs out of you.” And flush. And flush.

This is one time soup is good. You stop shivering, it makes your throat feel better. Your not so congested. Chicken soup is not just good for the soul. Sometimes mom made chicken bouillon which was so-o-o good on the throat. Most of the time you didn’t feel like eating anything heavy. Maybe the thing that really made you feel better was all that tender loving care.

Night were the worst if your nose was stuffy or you had a cough. Remember Vick’s Vap-o rub? Mom or dad smeared it all over your chest. We used to have a big old glass vaporizer with a reservoir where you put more Vicks. Don’t know if it was the vapor, the Vicks, or the rhythmic sound of the gurgling, but it did help me sleep! (In later years vaporizers fell out of favor because the moist places inside it could harbor bacteria that could make you sicker.)

Usually, there was a day or so where you felt better, your fever was down, but it was too soon to go back to school. Mom said you had to get your ”resistance” back up, and you didn’t want to relapse. That’s when food started tasting good and you could watch all the TV you wanted.

Then that morning came and your parents said you were all better and could go back to school, bearing that written excuse that assured your teacher that you really had a good reason for missing that test and not turning in all that homework. And you found out when you’d take the make-up test, usually harder, and have to turn in all that homework.

Oh well, it was fun, while it lasted…sort of.

5 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sick Days From School

  1. Bob,
    As I read your thoughts on childhood remedies and time off from school, I could smell the Vicks in my own childhood. How I loathed the smell!
    Good news for me–my Mom let me watch daytime reruns on TV and the gal with the cooking show. I think she was Marjorie Mariner. Any one remember her?
    Michelle Humans White

  2. Wow. I remember the old days of Vick’s Vaporub. My mom would rub it all over me and then wrap me up in an old rag out of a sheet to keep the greasy Vick’s from getting all over everything. Memories!

  3. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Dr. James B. Birch | Bob on Books

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