Everybody loves the retro look, so it’s no surprise that people are giving measles a try again. I had the original version, of course. At least once. Seems like there was a variety-pak of measles. We had regular measles and red measles and German measles and brown measles and speckled measles and anadromous measles, which kept coming back again. Or possibly they didn’t come back again, but they left enough of an impression that we remembered them over and over, or adopted our classmates’ episodes as our own. I do recall one bout clearly. I was in fourth grade and I missed Valentine’s Day. I remember Dr. Martin coming by with his black bag and telling mom, whom he always called Mother, that I would probably be fine but she had to be careful I didn’t come down with Scarlet Fever. That made an impression. Some colors are scarier than others. Scarlet Fever sounded really bad, so much worse than the Pink Pox or the Ecru Flu.
I didn’t come down with any color anything, but I did have a very high fever. It gave me this awful nightmare. It had something to do with things being really really little right next to really really big things, and one of the things was the typewritten lower-case “e,” which was for some reason terrifying. And then I went whooshing off in the dark really far and really fast, like from Virginia to India in two seconds, and that was terrifying too. Either that, or I got shot down in a military helicopter in Iraq; I get mixed up.
Years later I read about that dark tunnel you’re supposed to go through when you’re dying and realized that was another way of describing my fever dream. So I think I was pretty sick. I kept having that nightmare periodically for years even when I wasn’t sick. One night I finally recognized it and thought to myself “shit. This again? Here to India again in two seconds in the dark? I don’t even want to GO to India.” And I never had the dream again.
When I got all better someone dropped off a big bag of Valentines from my class. Some of them were made out of pink and red construction paper and white paper doilies, and others were little cards separated at the perforations. You can drop five bucks on a single card these days, but we’d get whole sheets of them for pennies and pull them apart and carefully decide whose desk should get BEE MINE and whose should get O U KID. What I don’t remember is if this business was an ordeal for the unpopular kids, because I was just about the most popular kid in class, and remained so until I changed schools the next year, after which I was feeding off the bottom of the social swamp until well into high school.
So I think today’s kids are really going to enjoy the measles, what with all the Valentines, and being able to stay in bed and listen to the little melamine radio, and the probably not dying and all. If you don’t get it, just hang in there. It’s tremendous contagious. Evidently a single measle can remain suspended in a doctor’s office for hours floating on a miasma of old People Magazine fumes. Then it waits for an unvaccinated child to come in and jumps on it, making a little hee-yah sound. The vaccine for it also protects against mumps and rubella. I’m told I got the mumps when I was very new, but inasmuch as (like all infants) I looked like Winston Churchill at the time, I don’t know how they could tell.
Vaccines are a remarkable medical success story. My goodness, we got rid of smallpox altogether, and almost got rid of polio. You just about have to have a drug problem or a car accident to check out early these days. That’s why people are sort of casual about joining the vaccinated herd. We’ll probably have to drop a few cattle to get people back on board.