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seeing spots.


 Illustration by Dana Wyatt of Spruce Avenue

It's finally happening...my school year working with my little guys is coming to a close, just two more weeks to go. At the risk of sounding old, crusty, and cliché, I'm just going to say it: damn, does time fly. I remember when I started back in October, and was signing my contract that read that my obligation was until June 30th. It seemed like a lifetime away and felt even a little nervous committing myself for so long. Well "so long" is coming to an end in ten days. Even my visa's days are numbered and have to go to the much-dreaded préfecture appointment next week.

Enjoying my last weeks of work and the sporadic summer days we have been enjoying here in Paris, I walked into school wearing my summer best and holding a large water bottle of my homemade sun-brewed mint green tea, looking forward to sitting in the park after work. Walking down the halls that on this day curiously smelled like Nair hair removal cream, I noticed a continuous theme on many of the children: red spots sprinkled like confetti on their faces. Some spots were dark, some were fresh and bright, and some were hedged with dry blood. Connecting the dots (pun so intended), I knew at four-years-old these poor kids weren't suffering from toddler acne and that it was much more serious: they had the freaking chicken pox.

Walking up the stairs to the la petite section to retrieve tiny Thomas, I learned that he was not immune to the widespread epidemic, and was too fashioning tiny spots all over his otherwise envy-worthy milky skin. Awesome. When he saw me, he ran into my arms ready to give me a hug and slather my face with a double-cheek bisous, and I nearly flung him off of me. This reaction wasn't driven by a fear of germs, it's just that I cannot confirm if I, in fact, have ever had the chicken pox before. 

I find it amazing that after 31 years, this has never come up. How have I never looked into this before? Inquiring about chicken pox is like volume one of annoying kid questions. Perhaps I have and just forgot? When I think back on a random memory like this, I can literally hear the rusty wheels of my brain squeaking as they search for an answer. I can't remember this, a question about my health, but me asking Timothy Wolf out in 1995 at sleep away camp and him calling me "too ugly for words?" That I remember as if it was yesterday.

In a panic, I looked up on my handy smart phone what happens to adults when they contract the chicken pox, and was far from delighted to read the word herpes zoster (I'm sorry, what?) or better known by its "street" name: shingles. The description of painful blisters and skin rash heightened my apprehension and made sure to wash my hands several times, not touching anything that was in direct contact with Thomas. Then I made the ultimate mistake: I told Franck that I was "allergic" to the chicken pox.

Well, that's all he needed to hear.

He spent a better part of the afternoon attempting to rub things on Thomas, in the hopes of transferring it onto me. Anything from tennis balls to the sleeve of his sweatshirt to cookies was open game, as far as precious Franck was concerned.

Not at all surprisingly, the parents weren't terribly concerned that their child was sent to school with a highly contagious disease nor the fact that I wasn't sure if I had them. The only way I would get to the bottom of this was by confirming with my mother, who would surely know. 

That evening I called her knowing that she would tell me that I had them as a wee baby, and would put my anxious soul at ease. There's nothing like a phone call to mom to make things better, right?

"I don't remember," she barked as I heard a page from The Post turn. "Kim is about to pop out that baby any minute now. God, I hope it's not ugly."

Mom! Just like the parents, she too was far from concerned but at least they didn't blow it off with tabloid gossip, about Kim Kardashian no less. On a side note, she is right though. We're going to be seeing a lot of that baby, so yeah, it better be cute.

"You don't have the chicken pox, don't be such a drama queen." she appeased my hysteria. "If you had them, trust me you would have known by now."

"Well can you call Dr. Schwartz to see if at least he remembers or has my files?"

"Dr.Schwartz? What are you crazy?" she snapped, "He's dead!"

Okay, now I'm really old. Even my pediatrician is dead.

That night in bed, I swore I was "feeling itchy" and drove Aurel crazy scratching my imaginary chicken pox. It's like when Franck gleefully told me one day that he had lice, and I spent the whole day convinced that my scalp was infested with larvae, and would have to get the pageboy haircut I was forced to get in Kindergarten. That whole night I swore that I felt red and an outbreak of herpes zoster was well on its way.

The following morning, stepping into the shower, I caught a glimpse of something red on my backside in the mirror and immediately screamed for Aurel. The red coats are coming! Herpes zoster was coming! I knew it! I wasn't crazy!

He rushed in, took a look, laughed, and walked away. "Babe, you just have a pimple on your butt...n'importe quoi." Never in my life would I have thought that I'd be so happy to see a zit on my tookus. Pure jubilation.

It's been over a week with no signs of red spots other than zitus tookus, and the monthly zit my face "enjoys," so I'd say I'm in the clear. And hey on the bright side of all of this, it gave me another opportunity to beef up my French vocabulary. I now know when I hear the word varicelles....to run, run, run!!

26 comments:

  1. LOL...when my two kids both got the chicken pox at the same time years ago I couldn't remember if I had had them either....my Mom said.."pretty sure you did"...thanks Mom

    if you don't have spots by now..you had them...no worries.

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    1. My mother claims I've never had it, but I remember full well getting it from my brother who got it in kindergarten. And I remember having spots on my scalp and how itchy they were! I was four years old. Take that, mom!

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    2. "pretty sure you did" Hahahaha! Yeah that was my mom's tone too! Not terrible concerned! All you can do is laugh, eh?

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  2. Hahahaha...good post, you made me laugh. Your mother is one of a kind, love her!

    When I applied for my Green Card they gave me all sorts of boost shots and I also was not able to remember if I had "varicela" (in Spanish), until my mom confirmed we all did and had passed it from sister to sister.

    Now that I have a really young niece and nephew, their mother (my younger sis), is always asking me about her childhood diseases and I can't remember a thing even though I was there every day! So it happens to all of us (except to my mom probably who with 6 children, would remember every single thing about each one!)

    Glad to hear you're OK. So lucky you're about to get a long and nice vacation!

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    1. Thanks Sylvia! Yes, my mom never ceases to entertain me. She doesn't even know she is being funny, that's the best part.

      Apparently I have to wait it out another week until I know I'm OK. Hoping for the best...

      Yes, vacation starts next week and I have to say, I'm ecstatic! I hope you had a nice weekend!

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  3. If memory serves me correctly, chicken pox stops being contagious once the spots come out, that could explain why the parents were not overly concerned.

    I know people who had it as adults and wouldn't wish that on their worst enemy.

    If it can make you feel better, Sweetie, it would not start with spots, but with fever I think.

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    1. I was with the infected children the week before, that's why I have been concerned, but so far there haven't been any signs. I have one more week until I'm sure that I didn't contract them..

      I'm really crossing my fingers on this one!

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  4. AnonymousJune 19, 2013

    Oh no! I'd be paranoid as well! I'm glad you're in the clear! :-)

    Congrats with getting through the school year! That's such a big accomplishment. I'm glad you got some funny stories outta' them kiddos for us readers to enjoy as well. I love them.

    I've been going on interviews for English teaching; hoping something bites, stat!
    (Ahah! So, I'm not the only one who gets the monthly facial zit!)

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    1. I can't believe the school year is pretty much over! So weird. It feels good that I completed it...I wasn't 100% on board my first month.

      Good luck on your search. September is a new year, so I'm sure something will come up!! Have you considered private tutoring, like putting up an ad on craigslist?

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  5. Hi, I've been reading your blog for some time now. I also live in France and got married to my Frenchman almost three year ago. I enjoy your witty stories about life in Paris.

    I figured I'd finally pipe up(after stalking you for so long) to say that I had the chicken pox as an adult, when I was 24.

    As with any virus, there is an incubation period, and with the chicken pox (not the name of the virus), that period is between 1 and 3 weeks after contact with an infected person. Most people start to have symptoms between the 10-day and 2.5 week mark. This was the case for me.

    My chicken pox did not start with a fever. I noticed a bump on my torso and it was at least a day and half and several spots later before the fever set in. As an adult I was prescribed antiviral medication to try to stop the spread of the spots. It was the worst fever I ever had as an adult - I hardly knew where I was and it felt like I was in somebody else's body. The spots were not really itchy; it was more like my whole body was burning. I couldn't sleep at night and was sleep-deprived. I watched a lot of TV and read a lot of fun books to try and keep my mind off of everything.

    I got the chicken pox by breathing the same air as an infected person. About a week after I contracted the virus, I came down with cystitis. This was probably caused by my weakened immune system due to the virus. So I actually knew at this point what was coming.

    The chicken pox is contagious up until all of your spots have scabbed over. The person who infected me had almost scabbed over, and her spots had defintely finished coming out. Her fever was over and she was feeling like her old self.

    I hope this comment isn't off-putting and make you uncomfortable. I just noticed that some of the above comments weren't 100% accurate and I wanted to put my two cents in (I am not a doctor, though!).

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    1. Hi there!!

      Thank you so much for this comment and also for reading the blog. : )

      Now I'm scared again. MERDE! I guess I have to hold out for another week until I'm fully in the clear...

      Man, it sounds just awful getting them as an adult. I'm so sorry you experienced this. I hate the part where you couldn't sleep. That sounds like hell. Sleeping is the only good thing about being sick.

      Ok, good to know. Thank you again for this honest and helpful comment and sincerely hope that I do not get them. Fingers crossed!

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    2. Don't worry too much - chances are you probably had the chicken pox as a child and it was so mild that your mom doesn't even remember.

      Yes, it was bad, but at the time I comforted myself by saying that it could be a lot worse, that I could have a serious illness instead of just the chicken pox. I try to remind myself this every time I think my life is not going the way I want it too.

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  6. According to http://chickenpox.emedtv.com/chickenpox/adult-chickenpox.html:

    Symptoms of Adult Chickenpox
    Symptoms of chickenpox in adults are similar to symptoms in children. Adult chickenpox symptoms can begin with 1 to 2 days of low-grade fever and tiredness. These early symptoms of chickenpox do not always occur before the chickenpox rash develops.

    Early adult chickenpox symptoms are followed by itchy blisters that first appear on the trunk, face, and scalp. These blisters can spread over the entire body, causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters. The chickenpox rash can appear in three or more successive waves. Eventually, the blisters crust over.

    When Is a Person Contagious?
    A person with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs.

    It takes between 10 and 21 days after contact with an infected person for someone to develop chickenpox.

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    1. "Eventually, the blisters crust over" so, so, so gross.

      It's been now about 14 days with no signs....7 more days until I'm fully in the clear.

      I feel itchy now. : O !

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    2. I probably noticed the spots before the fever hit because I knew what was coming - because I had cystitis and had been in contact with an infected person - and I was especially vigilant with checking my body over and over for spots. So when I found the first one it had probably just come out (I had even been to the doctor to be examined a few hours before I noticed the first one and he didn't notice anything!). I'd say that I had about 6 come out before the fever started the next day. The fever hit with a force that I can't describe: one minute I was fine, and the next minute I was completely gone. And it was at this point that the spots suddenly started coming with a vengeance.

      So most people probably notice the fever first because they have no idea that they had been infected and are not actively looking for spots like I was. Parents might not notice the first few and to be honest, the first few arn't itchy anyway. It's only when you start to break out that they are really itchy and when you have enough of them as an adult it just burns, not itches.

      You're almost there Ella!

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  7. Let's look on the bright side though: if you're gonna get chicken pox, you might as well get it during the holidays when noone sees you... And better after the wedding than before. But you might not get it at all, so as my friend Tanya's husband would have it: we'll JUMP OFF that bridge when we get to it;)

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    1. It's been two weeks, so I think I'm safe. I'm looking into a vaccination, so I don't have another scare next year. Omg, if I got the chicken pox (shingles) before the wedding....quelle horreur!!!

      Jump off....too cute! I once called the Netherlands "Pays La-Bas" not realizing the "la" completely changes the name to "the country over there"....one little word DOES make a difference!

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  8. The parents were probably happy to have their children exposed to it, as it is worse to get it as an adult. At least, that was the thinking when my kids were small.

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    1. Yes, they were happy..that was the impression I got. Now we're all happy because they don't have them anymore and I didn't catch them. Phew!

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  9. LOL this made me laugh, again! Not that the kids are having a chickenpox or you were scared of getting it .. You just make it sound hilarious! I would run too, I don't know if I had it as kid, wouldnt want the lices either :D

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    1. Hahaha thanks Sini. I try to always see the humor in every situation...including nasty chicken pox! : )

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  10. Chicken Pox... I always have this conversation with my mom whenever someone in close distance to me has gotten it and her responds is always " I cant remember but all your brothers and sisters had it, so you probably had it"

    I probably had it? That's the best answer i could get???

    I remember in elementary school my friend had chicken pox and was going to get to stay home for TWO WEEKS. Now, in my mind two weeks of no school was the best news EVER! I rubbed up against her several times that day. Too bad i never got it :/ . That spoil my plans of staying home and watching TV all day.
    So i guess i'm in the clear.

    Thank God i didn't get it, all that starching, itching and bumps eww eww eww! My young self was quite vulnerable if i wanted that yucky disease just to stay home. I would of been miserable!!!

    I guess you're in the clear Ella ^_^

    *high five* Pox free chicas

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    1. LOL! How do our parents not remember? To me that means that we must not have had them! As one mother told me, our moms would have remembered us scratching and suffering...

      Two weeks off from school was like major party time! Heck, two weeks off from work is major party time! Sorry your plan didn't work. : P !

      I think I am in the clear! Good news. Adult chicken pox sounds freaky!

      Pox free! Woo hoo!

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  11. As a mother who has received way too many "Mom, have I had x,y or z" telephone calls, I had to laugh at your mom's reaction! I think I'll use it the next time I get a call from Sara asking if she has had a rabies shot. Just the dead silence on the other end of the phone as I started talking about Kim Kardashian's baby would be worth it!

    Thank goodness that your little munchkins didn't give you chicken pox as an end of the school year present. Just the thought of it is making my skin itch.

    Does this mean that you're on vacation?

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    1. Hi MK!

      I start vacation next week. I'm sooo ready for a few weeks off. : )

      It's now been two weeks, so yeah, I think I'm in the clear. I still can't believe that my mom doesn't remember!! Hahaha I don't think Sara will appreciate a lead into Kim Kardashian drama when asking about a rabies shot! Too funny.

      Hope to see you soon!

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  12. ROFLMAO! I know I had chicken pox (I gave it to my parents, they fared rather less well than me ;o) ), scarlet fever, German measles, regular measles, mumps and meningitis. Bet you're glad you're not my parent, huh? ;o)

    Little Franck though, charming as ever...

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