Mama never has been one to cry much. Guess I'm like her in that way. But I do remember her crying on the morning of Thanksgiving Eve many, many years ago.
I must've been about 8 or 9, and our family was excited...we were going to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Mama's family! It was a trip we made every summer, but only occasionally did we go for holidays. My younger sisters and I could hardly contain our excitement, and I can only imagine how much Mama was looking forward to being with her parents, 9 siblings, and all of their people for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Adding to the excitement was our mode of transportation. Dad had rented out a truck camper and us girls were going to be riding in there! Of course, today no one would think to do such a thing and I'm sure it's probably illegal, but these were simpler times and passenger safety laws had yet to be thought of. Mama and Dad were riding in the truck cab, and us three girls (ages 9ish, 6ish, and 4ish) would get to make the trip all by ourselves in the camper!
I can only imagine the preparations Mama had made to get us all ready to go...laundry (without a dryer), packing suitcases, getting food together (no fast food stops for us...we stopped along the highways and Mama fixed our meals). I'm sure she was exhausted before we even pulled out of the driveway! The plan was to get up very early and leave, so we could be at Grandma and Grandpa Britt's by dark.
When Mama woke us up that morning, all packed and ready to leave, she must have been horrified and devastated. My sister and I were completely broken out with sores all over our skin...CHICKEN POX!!!
We weren't quite sure why Mama was crying, but we knew it must be something bad. The truth was, she was crying in disappointment, knowing that her long-anticipated trip home to see her loved ones could not happen. The chicken pox had sneaked into our family unawares and had ruined everything. Our Thanksgiving dreams were dashed...we would not be going to North Carolina.
After the sun came up and she had pulled herself together enough, Mama made the phone call to my grandma in North Carolina to break the news. I'm quite sure Grandma was looking forward to our trip as much as we were, since she didn't get to see us very often. As Mama spoke to Grandma on the phone, the tone of her voice visibly lightened and from what I could pick up, it sounded like the trip was back on. Mama got off the phone smiling...we WERE going, after all! Grandma had insisted we come, chicken pox and all. Even if we did expose the whole family to the dreaded disease, it was eventually going to happen anyway and may as well get that nasty chicken pox out of the way. (Those were the days before the vaccine...nearly everyone got it during their childhood, the theory being the younger you were when you got it, the easier and milder it was).
So we loaded up in the truck camper and headed south!!! I don't remember really feeling all that bad, just very, very itchy! And Mama kept telling us not to scratch, but boy is that hard to do!!! I had pox all over my body, but the ones that irritated me most were on my face and in my hair. I do remember a few days of misery with the incessant itching.
And the trip down in the truck camper? Well, it was COLD!!! We were dressed in very warm clothes and coats and wrapped ourselves in quilts the whole time, but I just remember how cold my toes were. For most of the trip, the three of us laid together on the bed over the truck cab, watching it roll through the mountains, singing songs, playing games, and lulled to sleep by the swaying of the camper. Every couple of hours or so, the truck would stop and we would get out to use the bathroom at the roadside rest areas and maybe have a snack or meal. But soon we were off again, snuggled as best we could in our quilts. We took turns sitting up front with Mama and Dad, a chance to get good and warmed up before it was our turn to get back into the cold camper. It wasn't a bad ride, just very cold, but we made it down just fine.
I don't remember much about Thanksgiving itself, but I know there was a houseful of cousins that I rarely saw but we had a great time playing with them. Of course, they were all envious of our trip down in the camper and how much fun they imagined it must have been. Fun, yes...but definitely cold!
After we got back home to Indiana, we heard that several of those cousins did indeed come down with chicken pox a couple of weeks later. I've often wondered if their mamas were appreciative of us infecting them...I kinda doubt it, but at least it was over and done with before Christmas rolled around.
A memorable holiday for everyone, for sure...
...a chicken pox Thanksgiving.