Surprising shot (as remembered by my mother)

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 24, 2014

I was too young to recall this incident, so it is brought to you by my mother, by way of me.
There are many stories of my very early childhood which my mother liked to tell. She would repeat them, on occasion, to others, and on occasion, to me. Repetition serves to carve little neural pathways into our brains, just like chiseling in stone. (Well, not exactly like chiseling in stone, for in psychology class at Appalachian, we learned that the brain is of about the same consistency as that of the yolk of an egg.)
Whether or not my mother did a little bit of chiseling in, or whisking of, my brain, I’m glad that she did, and did so often, because she taught me of the things I did when I was evidently too young for such events to register in my memory.
She loved to tell of the time I received a surprising shot from Dr. Frank B. Marsh’s nurse at about the age of almost 3. It was one of those follow-up inoculations given to a child, basically, to protect him from the fragile state of being alive. In recent cases where there has been inattention to inoculation, certain “throwback” diseases of earlier days have recurred, i.e. “whooping cough.”
My age, when this shot came, was a tender one (and according to my mother, so was its target, before and afterwards). I was too young to remember, but do recall the bee and wasp desensitization shots given me some years later by that same nurse in Dr. Marsh’s office.
From my experience, there are two kinds of ways in which a shot can be given. In one, the syringe is tossed like a dart, and with the other, the needle is pressed against the skin and slowly pushed. The first is short and sweet (“sweet” possibly too much), and the second is kind of like being in Poe’s pit, feeling the blade of the pendulum cut through your shirt, knowing that on the next swing it will begin to slice you. With the second variety of “shot giving,” you have the kind of shots typical of Doctor Marsh’s nurse of that day. I don’t remember her name, and if I did, I wouldn’t mention it, because to state it in the newspaper might inspire posthumous litigation from survivors. Later on, Doctor Marsh had a nurse who favored the “dart” method.
This nurse evidently felt that just as the element of surprise has its merits on the African Savannah (for big-game hunter and carnivore alike), the same advantage could be had when giving a shot to a young child. Just now, the use of the term “young child” makes me think of when my late wife Diane was a first-grade teacher in Yanceyville and her school annually celebrated the “Month of the Young Child.” Well, in either 1953 or ’54, as a young child myself, the month of that particular shot’s receipt was definitely not “my month,” and that particular day of its receipt was evidently not “my day!”
As my mother told it, I was being held aloft by my father (a sight often seen in amusement parks, replicated by me with my own children, Rachel and Jeremy, when they were both portable). She said that the nurse snuck up on me and stuck me where the upper back leg crosses the threshold into “something else.” (I know that “snuck” isn’t really English, but it rhymes with “stuck.”)
Now comes my mother’s favorite part (mine too): after being stuck, I immediately hollered: “Dammit, that hurt!” This is the place in the story where the parent would then say “I don’t know where he heard such a word,” but my mother couldn’t have truthfully said that, since my father used that word now and then.
As per my mother, the nurse was indignant and offended that her delicate sensibilities had been intruded upon by my use of such language. Also, from my mother’s telling of it, I must have been indignant that not just my personal space, but I myself had been intruded upon by the surprising shot. My mother told me that my father’s response to this whole scene was hearty laughter, which probably made the offending nurse feel even more offended.
I am grateful to my mother for this story, and for many things (she and my father for life itself). As I said before, I have no memory of this one, just what she told me years later. In my mind, I picture the scene as a third party onlooker would, a sort of Norman Rockwell illustration of my father, mother and me, a sort of “twisted” version including a nurse with a needle sneaking up on me from behind (also where the shot was received).
The stories of my very earliest days, as told by my mother, I remember as I do this one, like an onlooker (an imaginary one, not being granted that particular gift by the “Giftie”).
It wouldn’t be long before I would be remembering the past scenes of my life on my own, the way I do now, even the visual aspects of events which happened just an hour ago. In them, I don’t see myself, but look out from two binocular “caves” past the blurred, left- and- right-hand sides of “something” placed much too close to be brought into focus, and placed “smack dab” in the middle at that.