When I was seven, I decided I didn’t feel like going to school and wanted to get a little bit sick, so in the dead of winter, I went outside on our balcony in my night clothes and barefoot, and ate some snow. It was kind of a thing among the kids that if you eat snow, you’ll get sick. Actually, there were a lot of things that could make you sick, at least according to my grandmother. She used to say that “All colds start from your… neck, head, hands, feet…” or whatever part of me that wasn’t perfectly bundled.
So, I ate some snow. Then, a few days later, I woke up in the middle of the night with fever and a really bad abdominal pain on the right side, and they called an emergency doctor to come to the house – because this was in the days when doctors came to houses. The doctor showed up, looking half asleep. He poked me in the belly and said, “Does that hurt?”
I said it did, though I think it would hurt any one if they got poked in the belly like that. But they took me away thinking I had appendicitis – did I go in an ambulance? I don’t remember at all, but I do remember seeing a doctor at the hospital who unceremoniously stuck a gloved finger up my bum, and then eyed me critically in my skimpy pajamas, said that we’d be walking through a drafty stairway, put a jacket over me and walked me up the aforementioned set of drafty stairs to get a chest X-ray. And I remember thinking, “Did this random jacket come from (gasp!) a child who died?!” I later asked my mom and she was horrified, “Of course not!” she said. But I don’t know that I believed her.
Anyway, I had pneumonia, not appendicitis, and I was in the hospital for three days getting shots of penicillin. We were five girls in a room, and across the street was a cemetery! And I remember thinking that it is just wrong to put a cemetery across from a hospital Soviet hospitals didn’t allow parents to visit either. One day, the nurse showed up and said, “It’s your dad. He’s here. He is going to be allowed to see you because he is going on a trip.” And they took me out to a common area, where my dad was waiting bearing gifts of candy and toilet paper, and new pajamas.
“What trip are you going on?” I asked, and he said, “I’m not, but sssh! It’s the only way they’d let anyone see you!”
I didn’t get his gifts, though. Not right away. The toilet paper went to the bathroom and as for the candy, there was a big cupboard in the hallway where the nurses kept the treats our estranged parents dropped off for us, and that’s where they locked it up. After I stopped getting horrible fevers, it became fun to be in the hospital, like summer camp. We’d doodled and read books to each other, told stories, and sometimes, we’d sneak in the treat cupboard, sliding on the hard wood floor in our socks, and steal caramels, colored pencils, books, and other things when the nurses weren’t looking.
After they sent me home, I was stuck at home quarantined for another two weeks, and a doctor came to my house every day to give me shots. One time, when it was deemed safe to have visitors, a friend came over with his mom, but it was time for my shot, and while my friend was being given milk and cookies in the kitchen, I was sequestered in my room without pants on waiting for the doctor, and I was so embarrassed about my predicament…
The funny thing is, the next year, I tried the same trick: eating a little snow while barefoot while no one was looking. It only got me a slight cold. The next year after that, it didn’t affect me at all. Like I developed an immunity to snow or something.
Anyway, when I started medical school, and they told us that cold weather and snow and wet feet doesn’t actually cause colds, I was like, woah woah woah. Hold your horses. HOLD ON.
hahahaha. Sometimes, you just gotta believe the grandma.