Did you know I went to the disease’s namesake town? In the late 1970’s, there was a mysterious outbreak of arthritis among kids.
The disease supposedly was first written about in Germany in the 1800’s. However, it got its name from this more recent epidemic in the ’70’s.
I was there in 1982. My relatives from Minnesota came for a visit – my aunt and uncle with their three kids. One cousin was 11 months younger than me. They took me on one of their road trips to a cottage in Old Lyme.
I enjoyed an early morning stroll on the beach with my uncle. Just me and him. The sky was peachy pink and the shore slapped the sand. We collected seashells and skimmed rocks.
My 16 year old cousin made me watch a scary made-for-TV movie called “Fall of the House of Usher.” I was spooked by this – at age 10. To tip you off as to how cheesy it must have been, here’s a clue: the lead man from the Leslie Nielsen movie “Airplane!” was the main character (sh*t! What’s his name? The guy who landed the plane?!)
I remember a ruckus next door – loud music, screaming, swearing, and vomitting. I hollered at them to shut up or I’d call the cops. At 10, I was full of piss and vinegar. My cousin begged me to shut up, but I saw her stifling laughter. I misconstrued this as encouragement.
There was a tornado warning. The civil service sirens were blaring and I was terrified. There was no basement. The house stood on miniature stilts (nowhere near the coast). The sun blazed strong outside and there was no wind. My Minnesota relatives chuckled at me. They were from tornado alley, after all. No tornado. No need to hide under the beds.
We went out and rode on go-karts. I crashed mine HARD into a pile of black tires. I broke protocol and got out to remove the go-kart myself – it took the attendants too long to tend to me, after all. I sulked on the bleachers next to my aunt and uncle while my cousins drove the course a second time; they didn’t allow me because I didn’t follow directions.
I remember countless things, but I don’t remember any ticks. It was a very normal, very ordinary summer vacation.