I was just a child when …

Me @ 6

Since my last post much has changed for myself and my family. The Covid-19 virus has shut down the New Zealand we have known. I had thought that two granddaughters were coming from Melbourne to stay for the holidays, and I’d be taking them places, enjoying their company. I was looking forward to that. This week I’ve been self-isolating as I am someone who has a couple of auto-immune conditions, and I’m not as young as I think I am.  I shall be shopping online for our food from now on, but that’s okay. I feel fortunate that I have many interests, such as reading, writing and art, which will keep me well-occupied over the next month or more.

I can’t help remembering another time, when I contracted Scarlet fever. I was six years old. And because I was the first in the family to contract this illness, which was most contagious and caused many vulnerable people to die, I was sent to a fever hospital many miles from home to isolate. I travelled in an ambulance, and that was quite exciting as I recall, seeing my classmates waving as we drove past my school. At the hospital I shared a ward with other children in the same predicament, and did little apart from sleeping and reading, waiting for the day I could return home. Approximately three weeks later, I stood in a bath and was sluiced down by a nurse, with what seemed like scalding water, while she scrubbed my hair with disinfectant soap. I was to leave that day she told me. I couldn’t have felt more miserable, my head hurt. I cried.

My mother eventually arrived in a taxi, and soon I was dressed in the fresh clothes she had bought, as everything I had worn in, or taken with me (as in story books), was to be destroyed. She handed me a ‘baby’ doll with blue knitted clothes, that her best friend had made for me. My smile returned. I was happy to be going home to see my sister and brothers and my lovely dad again. Except…

Everyone one other than my mother had Scarlet fever, and I soon learned that I had to stay home and be isolated with them for several more weeks. I cried more. I loved school, my friends and teachers, and was so looking forward to seeing them all again. Instead, I became my mother’s ‘little helper’, and looked after the family as well as I knew how, by reading to my sister (yes, I could read well at six), making lemon-barley-water drinks, taking them meals, and cleaning the sickroom.

I was away from school for two months in total. And again, although I was upset initially at being confined at home with my family, I was pleased that I could help my mother look after my father and siblings. So, in some ways, I am in a similar position right now. Except that I am looking out for my neighbours, family and friends, not by visiting, but by keeping in contact through phone or email; ensuring that they are well. As for me, I shall just keep on reading, writing and drawing, just like my six-year-old self. And posting blogs, of course.

Everyone, be sensible. Be safe. Keep your distance when out walking. And please look out for others less able during these tough days. This is not a time to be selfish.

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