Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hello There, Monkeybean

Danny's going for his first allergy jabs tomorrow, something he's looking forward to in hope it will enable him to spend more time outdoors in spring and summer. I went for years starting at the age of seven, through about twelve. Then as a college student I did another two year treatment cycle. These days, the allergists say if it isn't helping by the end of the year, it likely won't-so at least he isn't looking at a lifetime commitment. I rarely suffer from seasonal allergies anymore though I can't say if it was the jabs, or moving away from Illinois.

I was thinking about how different the world was when I was getting my weekly jabs. Not the world of immunology (though certainly that's changed too) but the way my routine back then simply wouldn't be possible today.

The allergist was the paediatrician's brother (insert joke about how proud their mother must have been). By the time I was seeing him, he was in his 80's, and almost completely deaf. It hardly mattered, Dr. Levy had been jabbing needles into people's arms for decades and didn't really need to talk much. He wouldn't hear you come in, and sometimes I'd have to stand there a few seconds before he noticed, and I'd be greeted with an enthusiastic, "Good to see you, monkeybean!" Then, he'd grab my arm, always starting with the left and start administering two in each arm. Grass, trees, dust, and then something he called a, "cold shot" which I suspect was some combination of vitamins he believed would keep me well. There might have been something to it as I rarely caught colds as a child.

Dr. Levy had a receptionist named Doris who I think was Hawaiian. She had a dog-dish filled with candy ("people treats") and always made sure there were enough green apple Jolly Ranchers. At some point she retired,  and was replaced by another receptionist also named Doris. I always suspected she was hired so Dr. Levy wouldn't have to remember another name at his advanced age. Doris II was a pleasant woman with a bouffant hairdo, but she was rubbish at keeping the candy dish stocked.

When you get allergy jabs, no matter how long you've been going there's a 20-30 minute wait afterward to be certain you won't suddenly have a reaction. I never minded (at least not when Doris I was in charge of the candy) and there was always a good selection of magazines in the small but pleasant waiting room. All the patients knew each other-this was how we spent our Saturday mornings.

My mother wasn't the sort of person that would spend time sitting in a waiting room unless she absolutely had to. Fair enough, as she was a gravely ill woman and saw quite enough of doctor's offices. Instead, being Saturday she'd drop me off for my appointment and pick me up (in front of the medical office building next to Best and Company department store) in two hours. How did I fill all that time after the appointment? Pleasantly.

After the all-clear from Dr. Levy, "See you next week Monkeybean. Be good or your mother will sell you for two cents and get change back!", I'd head over to Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore across the way. Oh, sometimes I'd look in Best's window at clothes, but I rarely bought anything there-I was more of a Marshall Field's or Chas. A. Stevens shopper. Saturdays were for books anyway.

Kroch's and Brentano's was the best bookstore in the city at that time. I rarely could afford new books, but downstairs they had tables of remaindered books well within my budget. There was a wide staircase with hammered-copper artwork for sale on the landing which I'm sure no one ever bought as the same pieces were there week after week, year after year. When I'd get to the landing there was a wonderful view down into the sales floor that always filled me with excitement. It was a great part of my childhood, roaming the basement at Kroch's and Brentano's without anyone telling me to hurry and choose something. I was lucky that my parents were both avid readers, as they were happy enough to supply me with a book-buying allowance for my Saturday afternoon visits. The remainders were always good quality books-you just didn't know what they would be.

I can remember the first book I bought, a re-print of an antiquated translation of the Tain Bo Cuailnge (sorry, can't figure out how to do accent slashes on this computer). I still have it! A small, cloth bound volume that never had a dust jacket and was more footnotes than body of text, the translation I discovered in later years wasn't very good. I took my purchase as I did every subsequent week over to the lunch counter at the dimestore where I ate a toasted cheese sandwich, drank a pink lemonade, and enjoyed my two hours of independence. If you let an eight year old do that today, you'd be arrested on neglect charges. In the 70's, no one even noticed.

That was the start of my reading for enjoyment, and over the many, many Saturdays I built an interesting collection of books. A coffee-table book about Movietone newsreels (still have that one), Future Shock (didn't keep that one), A biography of shoemaker Ferragamo (long before I knew about vintage), and so many other things I wouldn't have ever bothered to read if I didn't have access to a good bookstore, and a couple hours on my own. I'm a little sad Danny won't have that same opportunity to learn responsibility by going to an allergist's appointment, and then using a set time for lunch and book shopping. The allergist's office doesn't offer candy either.

The funny thing is, Danny is much more responsible at eleven than I was at the same age. I know he'd be fine, but the powers that be don't trust parents to decide what their children are capable of anymore. By his age, I was taking care of a sick parent, getting myself on the bus to school each day, and in some cases getting myself to bed at night. In all the years that I spent doing my Saturday routine, no one ever tried to kidnap or harm me. Ever. I wasn't a naive kid-if I'd got a creepy feeling from someone I knew what to do, but I didn't approach all adults as wishing to do me harm. Instead, I got to have interesting conversations about books, met people from all walks of life, and sat at the lunch counter with people I wouldn't have otherwise encountered. The zany old woman who would tell me about her shoes made with technology from NASA programmes (they were some sort of comfort shoe) every week like it was the first time we'd met in the waiting room-I wouldn't have met her. The waitress who always wanted to know how school was going-I wouldn't have met her. The salesclerk that would later help me to order specific books from the giant reference of "In-Print books" they kept behind the counter-I wouldn't have met him.

Eventually, I stopped going for allergy jabs and my Saturdays were spent instead sleeping at a friend's house and going shopping with her the next day. It was still independence, but I didn't need a weekly trip to buy clothes, and at least when I was buying books it wasn't influenced by anyone else's taste. My friend favoured a rather Ivy League look, and there's only so many button-down Oxford cloth shirts a person needs in their wardrobe. You can't learn anything useful from a shirt.

Danny does get time to interact with adults at bird banding, and I don't sit there with him. He's been given greater responsibilities because the people conducting the banding know they can count on him to take the duties seriously. Still, that's no substitute for being at large on a Saturday, enough money for lunch and a book. By the time the state decides he's old enough to be unattended for five minutes, he'll be a teenager-and we all know teenagers aren't open-minded enough to sit and listen to an adult that might have something interesting to say.

I wrote this late last evening. We went for the injections, all was fine, and generally painless. I noticed a pile of stickers at the reception desk, so that's something I guess.


Bibi Maizoon said...

Glad Danny's shots went so well & happy to learn he's such a responsible young man.
I was sort of thinking along the same lines the other day, about how alienating American culture has become. We're so afraid of others wishing to do us and our children harm, even friendly mundane chit chat with strangers is viewed as an opportunity for malice. Children don't learn to interact with adults of all ages & all walks of life anymore.
Here we know just about everyone in town. The state could care less if we sold our kids to a traveling circus.
On the other hand, South Asians don't teach their children anything about responsibility until they are married. Then magically overnight after marriage these young adults are supposed learn to cook, manage their finances, do their own laundry, learn how to hold a job, etc. I call this the "Asian Princeling/Princess syndrome." My 21 yr old nephew that moved in with us 2 yrs ago to learn my husband's business is one of these "Asian Princelings." He's had a bit of a hard time having to deal with making his own bed, helping serve & clean up at meals, putting his dirty clothes in the hamper, managing his own personal hygiene, and having to apologize for & refrain from physically assaulting other employees because they "Spoke to me like a servant." (Violent tantrums in addition to an egregious sense of entitlement are another ugly facet of the "Asian Princeling/Princess syndrome.)

Sue said...

If feel like I have just read a chapter in a very good book, you know you should write! I am glad I grew up in a time of real freedom, I gave my lads as much of it as was possible. But now days people just will not let their kids out of their sight, oh and they are called free range children now. Free Range my arse, they are living how a child should, outside and exploring, making their own choices and learning from experiences. Glad Danny is doing good, things can only keep getting better. Say hello to your little bird watching lad!!

Beth Waltz said...

It's good to learn Danny's situation is improving, although he seems the sort of sensible child who could be trusted to follow a doctor's instructions (even if he did ask lots of questions).

My brother and I experienced both versions of childhood, as city kids roaming an enormous city park just across a busy street, and as country kids exploring acres of woods and farmland. In both environments, the adult population was stable. Our parents and we KNEW the faces we saw. Sadly, in today's crowded communities filled with transients, even I couldn't identify the families who just moved in at the other end of town. (And a quick glance at the online map of known sex offenders was a shock. The predators are indeed running loose among us.)

Goody said...

The sex offender registry isn't a good way to tell who is a threat as you can end up on it for urinating in an alley, being 18 and having a 15 year old girlfriend, teens sending naked photos to eachother gets them arrested for pornography, and so on. When EVERYTHING ends up on it, it becomes hard to weed out what was sex assault and what was well...pissing outside the tavern. We don't have more sex offenders-we have more behaviours that fall under the title.

I compare it to the statistics about child negelect. If every parent that gets busted with a joint is thrown into the DCFS system for child neglect (whether there is any evidence of neglect or not) it makes the numbers look much worse.

I think we're a lot safer from violent crime (at least based on the hard numbers for each specific crime) than we were in the 70's, but broadening the definitions of what fits the crime skews it.

*Steps off soapbox*

I do worry that when kids fear everyone, it is harder to discern just who to stay away from (and you know how it was-every town had, "That house" kids steered clear of whether they knew why or not).

Oh no, the young, male ego. Good luck, it won't be fun. But good for you insisting he learn.

When my mum died my dad who was in his 60's couldn't do anything for himself-at all. He ended up taking all his meals out and relying on the mercy of other family members to clean his place when we were around (he wouldn't hire a housekeeper). I'm all for making sure boys learn to take care of themselves because I've seen the results of not doing so. It was so bad with dad, he'd be sitting an arm's length from the fridge and ask someone to get up and "go get me a Coke." Imagine! We won't talk about the time he tried running the dishwasher with liquid dish detergent...

Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

This was so interesting to read Goody and beautifully written. I was having a similar sort of conversation when I was walking with my walking group today.

I grew up in inner city London in the 1960s and we had so much freedom. The streets were literally our playground and we'd play skipping with one person on either side of the road and the skipping happening in the middle of the road! Very few cars around and it was a poor neighbourhood.

When I was 11 our primary school (you leave primary at 11) allowed us to go out of school for lunch on Fridays! We used to go to a local pie and mash shop and for one shilling and sixpence we'd get: pie, mash and liquor (green, snot like gravy!!); a cup of tea and a slice of bread pudding. I first went on a bus by myself aged 10 and from the age of 8 was taking my two younger brothers to school. I ran all the errands and got the shopping for my mum from about 9 or 10, going to the butchers, bakers, greengrocers and grocery shop.

My children were allowed to roam freely around the village where we lived at the time from about ages 9 and 8 years old - they were always together. They often used to play in a field near our house. It had a stream at the bottom which they were constantly try to dam and it kept them amused for weeks. When it was time for lunch or time to come in; I'd go outside and blow a whistle and they knew to come home then!!

In contrast, my middle grandson aged 11 has just, since January, been allowed to walk to and from school (about 2 miles each way) on his own. He doesn't go to the shop by himself yet - I'm trying to get that going...

The eldest grandson was given more independence and started going to school on his own, riding his bike to and from school, from about 9 and half.

I feel very sorry for children these days, They're constantly chaperoned and as you said, rarely get to engage with adults outside their own family circle. They do fear unknown adults because they've been taught to. They just don't have the physical freedom to roam, explore and engage and I think we do them an injustice.

I'm so pleased that Danny gets to do his own thing when bird banding and glad to hear his shots went well. My youngest grandson is allergic to dust, dogs, cats, horses, and a range of nuts and has horrible excema, too. His only treatment for the allergies is avoidance.

We were lucky weren't we?


Goody said...

When we were on the farm, Danny was able to run around and explore, so it was a terrible change once he found out about all the laws in the city.

I grew up allergic to nuts in the 60's and 70's, so when people start in about, "No one ever had allergies when I was a kid" I can shut them up pretty quick. I'm also convinced if I hadn't lived so close to a hospital I might not be here today. Eppi pens save lives. I don't know if your grandson takes liquid antihistamine to counteract a bad attack, but it might be worth asking if you can keep some at your house in case. It works quickly and buys you time to get help. When I was little I had to chew tablets-blech.

The only thing that ever helped Danny excema was Cetaphil soap. You can use it without water (the liquid) and it is very mild. If you can't get it there, I'd be happy to send you some.

Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

Goody - thank you for your very kind offer. I'll look into Cetaphil soap. He is prescribed 3 sorts of creams and doesn't use and soaps or shampoos at the moment. He also has an epi pen.

We were in Ireland in the summer and he petted my cousin's dog and then we went to feed the horses. He had a major allergic reaction in the back of the car on the way into Sligo. We had to call an ambulance and he went to the hospital where they gave him adrenaline. Extensive tests at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge gave us the list of allergies plus the epi pens - so if there is a next time we are prepared!!

Oh poor Danny must have the change from farm to city huge! Still he hasn't lost his sense of humour has he?


Mim said...

It's good to know Danny's shots went well.

Kids in general today don't have the freedom we did, do they? It's a shame, really. Though I regularly get passed by hordes of little guttersnipes on bikes and scooters near the train station (which is right by the skate park) so clearly some of them are getting out on their own. I can't imagine going shopping and for a sandwich on my own at eight, though.