Measles and Made-Up Books

When I was in the third grade, I needed to turn in a book report. I hadn’t read a book that I wanted to write a report on, so I made up a book (plotted a story) in my head and wrote about that. Imagine my surprise when my assignment came back with an A+.

I had gamed the system.

However, I also had a very active conscience. And a cousin, who lived next door who happened to have what our parents called the three-day measles*.

The night before the last day of school–where we reported at 9am and were dismissed at 9:30am–guilt kept me awake all night. After my dad left for work, I crawled into bed with my mom and confessed my crime. She told me I had to tell the teacher what I had done.  However, when I went to get dressed, I discovered red spots all over my stomach: I’d caught the three-day measles from my cousin. No school for me!

And that’s how the measles saved my bacon.

*According to Wikipedia, the three-day measles and the German measles are both rubella. Back in my childhood, at least in my family, the two forms were considered different types of measles. But here’s what’s even more curious. As an adult, my doctor ran some blood work on me, and one of the tests was for measles, mumps, rubella. According to the results, I’d never had any of those diseases. Yet I clearly remember having the measles. It was hot. School was out for the summer. My mom pulled out her galvanized washtubs, filled them with water, and let my sibs at them. My parents have photos of me hanging around my sibs and cousins while they sat in the tubs to cool off. I couldn’t go in because I had the measles. Go figure. Anyway, before I got married, I asked my doctor for the MMR inoculation, because I planned to have children and didn’t want to take any risks. My doctor double checked my records, saw that I had remembered the blood work results correctly, and gave me the shot.