Chicken Pox

When I was eleven years old, I had a bad enough fever one night to have my parents squatting at my bedside, my dad’s eyes welling up with tears. The next morning, they went to work at their carry-out, while I stayed home alone and slept in, missing school. My dad later left work right after the lunch rush to pick me up and take me to the doctor’s. Dr. Choi, a deacon from our church, diagnosed me with chicken pox. I remember my dad laughing and smiling and rubbing my head, as we left the doctor’s office. He then took me to work with him, where my mom made me a cheeseburger. I ate so much that afternoon I had to unbutton my jeans.

That evening after dinner, my dad went to Woolco and brought home a latch hook rug kit for me to work on the coming week. I’d have to stay home alone. I’d get bored. My hands needed to keep busy so I wouldn’t scratch. Don’t scratch. Scratching scars. I loved that kit. The box included a canvas with the image of a puppy, a hook needle, and pre-cut yarn bundled by color in plastic casings. I got started right away.

My parents couldn’t miss a single day of work. They had to trust me to stay home alone and take care of myself. I felt the weight of their worry and regret. It was heavy. And I wanted to do my part in lightening it by assuring them that I would be all right. The week went quickly. The rug was finished after the second day. Phone calls from my mom and dad every two to three hours. Lots of TV.

I suppose I could remember that week with ambivalence, but I don’t. I remember it very fondly.

I’m home with my kids. I don’t have to work. This is not an immigrant’s life I lead. However, I want to make memories for them that are just as indelibly dear as my latch-hook-kit memory. Otherwise, twenty years from now, they may write: When I was six years old and fell ill with a mysterious fever, my mother transformed into a robot.

Not the actual rug, but close enough.

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I never cease to be amazed by the inspiring stories of immigrant parents. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. How astute that at 11 years old you could feel the weight of your parent’s heart.

    I love this quote: “However, I want to make memories for them that are just as indelibly dear as my latch-hook-kit memory.”

    • I don’t doubt your kids will be talking about the leprechauns.

  3. Another great post Patti! I too have such great memories from my childhood and yet my immigrant parents always seemed to be working–if not at their day jobs, then at home or at the rental homes that they bought to provide a “pension” of sorts in retirement. The special events and treats from my childhood that still make an impression on me are relatively modest compared to the ways in which we regularly indulge our two kids. My mom says we are too good to them. I know that at some level she is right, but I still cling to the hope that we are doing more good than harm….

    • I know that tension. Priceless moments don’t have to be costly ones, although master card would disagree. Our parents did what they could with what they had, and we do the same. We can only hope our expressions and gestures resonate with the same depth of devotion and love.

  4. Love. It. I remember those rugs…..

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