The true barometer of fall is not pumpkin flavored, it is the arrival of the autumnal equinox. This year, it swings through town on Monday, September 23rd, giving you permission to trade in your casual linen shirt for a broad striped plaid, your open-toed sandals for Chelsea boots. For the women surrounding the Baker’s bench at my workplace, this is great news. While they have been itching to unleash the pumpkin/chocolate chip quick bread since Labor Day, I have been less inclined to rush the season.
Well aware that cider doughnuts coated in a deluge of cinnamon sugar are readily available, it still feels a little early. I will however, admit to purchasing a mega-ginormous bag of miniature chocolate candy bars because Costco offers a fine selection. It’s been a few days since the bag arrived in my kitchen and if you look closely, you might notice a few of the peanut butter cups are missing. I can’t vouch for the handful of Snickers or remember eating the Milky Ways, but not to worry; they found a good home.
Personally, the sad-but-true harbinger of fall lies not in a latte brimming with nutmeg, but in the fresh onslaught of coughs and colds and early influenza. You need look no further than the person approaching you on the street, seated next to you on the train, or handing off their shopping cart at the local market. Thanks everyone, for sharing.
We are taught to share at an early age, and if you were lucky enough to grow up with siblings, learning this skill was critical to your survival. My older brothers were pretty good about sharing, particularly common colds and childhood diseases. I shared right back, offering my latest sore throat or fever into the mix as we circled a Milton Bradley game board or wrestled in the living room. My sister was much younger and in most cases, just as we were rallying from our latest malaise, she was coming down with it. My mother tried in vain to keep us isolated in our rooms at the first sign of a cold, but our lives were so intertwined, it was nearly impossible. Thankfully, doctors made house calls back then and mothers or grandmothers, and always Jessie, stayed home with us when we were sick. We were entertained by Colorforms and Dot-to-Dot and an endless stream of cartoons. It was a very different kind of day care.
I was thinking about this on Tuesday as I waited on a gray, molded plastic chair at the local pharmacy. Before there was a vaccine for one of those connect-the-dots childhood diseases, we actually had the disease. As adults, we run the risk of revisiting the chicken pox all over again in a less desirable version. My health care professional administered my first dose in June with the reminder that I needed the second dose three months later. Begrudgingly, I heeded his reminder.
The pharmacist was an affable sort, armed with a serious looking syringe. I looked away. “Any reaction to the first dose?” he asked, pausing for a moment.
“Nothing terrible,” I explained. “A little headache, a little pain…”
“At the site of the injection?” he asked as he administered what could only be described as kryptonite through a fine syringe. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” Slapping a vibrant red band-aid on my upper left arm, he added. “A number of individuals have reported a more severe reaction to the second dose. Take some Tylenol if you feel feverish,” he suggested. “And don’t forget to get a flu shot!” he called after me.
Feverish was the tip of the post-shingles shot iceberg. My side effects vacillated between teeth-chattering chills, a raging headache, and a fever that continued creeping high enough to prevent any reading or Netflix consumption. I watched the thermometer climb with the steadiness of a candy thermometer attached to a pot of simple syrup. I slept, dreaming the same dreams over and over again; a feverish tangle of Bugs Bunny, Fred Flintstone, and Magilla Gorilla. I used my one good arm, my right arm, to flail about for more Tylenol every six hours, as directed. Not a single piece of chocolate from the giant bag in the kitchen crossed my lips.
The post-vaccine side effects were more than a little inconvenient, but not dire. The headache lasted for too many days and my left arm still hurts like the dickens. Actually, it hurts with a very familiar pain. The pain reminiscent of the shot in the arm administered by my brothers when we were horsing around, and it was funny until someone got hurt. To clarify, that someone was usually me.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm