Today – a Friday Flashback.
Next week, my baby sister will turn 40 years old. Happy early birthday, sis. I know exactly where I was 40 years ago the day she was born. I was all of 7 years old – my brother, 3 years old. And it was getting pretty close to Christmas.
Daddy woke brother and I up very, very early the morning of Dec. 22. He scooped us up, put us into the car in our jammies, and drove us up the street to Janice’s house – my mom’s best friend.
“Where’s Mommy?” I sleepily asked. “Where are we going?”
“Shhhhh – Mommy’s getting ready to go to the hospital; the baby's coming,” Daddy replied. “You’re going to spend the day with Aunt Janice.”
We arrive at Janice’s house, and shuffle off to the guest bedroom where both brother and I fall back to sleep. I had school that day – it was to be our Christmas party – and the last day of school before Christmas break. (Yes, they called it "Christmas break" back then – screw “Holiday” break. It was Christmas.)
Later, Janice got me up for school. She fried an egg and sat it down in front of me – and then the phone rang. It was Daddy with good news – we now had a new baby sister named Traci Christine. Mommy and baby were doing well.
However, I wasn’t doing well. I was having a very difficult time chewing that fried egg. My mouth wasn’t working. What the hell? I debated whether to tell Janice or not. Janice was a very vocal, fiery redhead – as a meek, mild-mannered 7-year old, she scared the hell out of me. Do I tell her? Would she yell at me? Would she beat me?
I finally resigned myself to whatever consequences this would bring, but I knew that egg wasn’t going down my throat. I tentatively said, “Uh, Aunt Janice? I’m very sorry – but my mouth’s broke. I can’t chew the egg.”
Janice took one look at me, and shrieked, “Oh. My. God! You’ve got the mumps!!!! Back to bed.”
Yes. I officially had the mumps. Which meant I missed the Christmas party & gift exchange at school. Which meant I had to stay at Aunt Janice’s for a week. And at the end of that week, my baby brother got the mumps, as well. So we stayed another week. Janice never let my parents live that down. Our “one-day” visit turned into a two-week extended stay. We couldn’t be near mom or the baby – we were in “quarantine” – whatever the hell that meant. To a 7-year old, it meant I was stuck in a terrifying woman’s house without my own clothes and without my own toys and missing my Mommy. And I couldn't play with any of my friends.
Christmas was very weird that year. We celebrated Christmas in late January –after we were all reunited. I was terrified that Santa wouldn't come in January - he was probably lounging on vacation in Florida by then - but my folks reassured me that Santa makes "late runs" - and he did. Santa came in January to our house. All was well in my world.
Yup – a Christmas to remember, 1969. The year Santa brought us a baby sister and the mumps. I’m still not sure which one was the better deal. ☺