Straight back into the countdown…
2. A Pox Upon NYC
I was very lucky to be taken to New York City by my parents at the tender age of 11. I was most fortunate to join Mother and Father Painefull in staying at a rather salubrious hotel (starts with ‘Waldorf’ ends with ‘Astoria’). I was incredibly privileged to be there over the week of New Year’s Eve.
|An artist's rendering of my visit to NYC|
My parents, New York City and said salubrious establishment were probably a touch less grateful for my presence. Poor Mother Painefull spent a great deal of my childhood trying to get me Chicken Pox (like an instrument you’ll grow to hate and a doll that soils itself, it’s one of life’s go-to gifts), figuring the sooner it happened the sooner it would be over. I was eternally being sent to visit kids who were going through it, but nary a spot appeared… until we touched down in NYC.
The first hint something was wrong came when I paid tribute to The Exorcist by projectile vomiting my way through one of those super trendy delis. Mum did what any parent would do under the circumstances – she entered denial. And thus I can lay claim to the Great NYC Chicken Pox Plague of 1997*.
I slept for 4 hours on a bench in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum while my parents took in the art. Those were the days, huh? Leaving an unsupervised, un-labelled child to wander a foreign city alone, infecting the populace like a vastly superior version of Home Alone 2. I can only guess at the countless school trips I contaminated in that sitting. They don’t call me Typhoid Painefull for nothing. In fact they don’t at all… but they should.
Even when Parentals Painefull conceded I might be a little sick (First Sign: vomiting, Second Sign: spots, Third Sign: hallucinations) that didn’t stop them. In order to make sure I didn’t miss out on New Year’s Eve in The Large-ish Apple they covered me in a pile of jackets, scarves and hats to hide my poxy face (and my infectious nature) and took me to see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
A funny thing happened on the way back to the hotel as well – we had to try and cross Times Square. I tell you nothing gets cops waving you through barricades faster than pulling back a small child’s hat to reveal a face that could well be the first hint of a zombie apocalypse.
1. Total Eclipse of the Heart
This isn’t the tale about me being Sick with Love. Sorry, I’m not that girl (on what earth has anything I’ve written in this blog implied that I’m remotely that girl?). This is the story of how I had a hole in my heart.
I have two memories that vie for poll position as my earliest, I’ve never been entirely sure which one comes out ahead. The first is being seated at the kitchen table along with my parents and 4 siblings. We were all in the process of eating lamingtons (cause that’s a meal here in Australia ya know) – it was some sort of treat – and someone had just said something so funny that everyone with a vocabulary over 20 words (ie. all bar me) was paralysed in hysterical, all-consuming, body-shaking laughter. And yet for some reason the room was almost completely silent. Because, as I later realised, that’s how the Family Painefull truly laughs.
The other is of being on a moving hospital bed watching my mother and father, dressed in gowns and caps, recede into the distance. It’s only in hindsight that I recognise, that would have been on the day they fixed the hole in my heart. Thank god for old school local GP’s who notice strange noises, surgeons who know what they’re doing in what is a relatively everyday procedure now and high-necked swimsuits that hide strange scars.
* = the Great NYC Chicken Pox Plague of 1997 might not actually be a thing, or it might have been a thing that no one realises was a thing. I really hold on to the idea that I have already left my mark on the city so nice they named it twice, and thus my lack of achievement later in life is just a long-foretold bout of counter-balancing.