The Christmas I was seven years old was a memorable one for me. I spent that day in the hospital with a kidney infection that was difficult to treat. I don’t recall the illness very clearly, though I know I ran a high fever and was in the hospital for many days.
That had to be pretty scary for her and for my dad. Eventually they found an abscessed tooth that was causing the problem and I got better. I missed many weeks of my second grade year. More importantly, I found out that Santa does indeed find kids in the hospital. He leaves more oranges and apples than candy in the stockings hung there, but he also left books (which were more important to me, anyway). I awoke Christmas morning to find a doll almost as big as I was in the bed next to me. I named her Cathy. Or Sally. I never could decide which, but she was a constant companion to me throughout that hospital visit and for the next few years. She now sits in a small rocking chair in our nursery. And I still haven’t decided her name.
My eleventh birthday was memorable, as well. That year we had moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio. In Pennsylvania, we had a cabin the mountains near the Maryland border. My grandfather and father built it themselves and we had four or so acres of woodland up an unpaved mountain road. It was on a lake and our family’s retreat. We would go to the cabin every Memorial Day when school was out and stay until Labor Day. Dad would commute back to the city on Monday mornings and return Friday evenings.
It was a wonderland for me. I could hike, swim, roast marshmallows, play records and pretend to be Robin Hood. The spring before I turned 11, we moved to Ohio, which made the cabin a six hour drive instead of one hour. This meant we didn’t go as often, but we went up to spend the week of my birthday.
When we opened the door, we knew something very bad had happened. I got to look for a few moments before Mom ushered me outside and Dad drove down to the nearest phone to call the police. Some vandals (later they were actually caught and Dad was able to confront them) had broken in and destroyed everything. Couches and mattresses were slashed, food thrown against the wall, dishes broken, and all my toys and records had been smashed to smithereens. We spent my birthday weekend cleaning up.
The cabin was never the same for me after that, though we went back before my senior year of high school. It was there that I learned to water ski.
Disasters near holidays or birthdays certainly make them memorable, but have not diminished their meaning for me. I still look forward to every reason to celebrate life with loved ones and enjoy the surprises (like life-sized dolls) that they bring. Happy summer to all!
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.