What is it that takes you to your safe place? The place were all is right in the world. Where troubles are calmed and you mood is instantly transformed. Mine....in a bag of barbecue potato chips. Chips?? No, not just chips...BBQ chips.
It was the summer before fourth grade. In fact it was the last day of third grade. I did not feel good. Chalk it up to being a kid, last day of school, June weather and running around because summer is here! The teacher did not seem to notice the perfect blood red V on my chest. (a classic sign and symptom). Again, last day of school, everyone is hot and sweaty. I made it home and still not feeling too good. Excited that school is over, but didn't really have much energy to celebrate. That's the last thing I truly remember.
I remember bits and pieces of the month to follow. Seems the bright red "V" was scarlet fever. I know what your thinking, "who gets that anymore?" "Isn't that what caused Mary Ingols on Little House on the Prairie to go blind?". (yes it was by the way). The house was under quarantine by the department of health. No one could come in, no one could go out. I remember I was burning up and telling my Mom that before I was born I was an angel in heaven and God let me pick out who my mommy would be and I picked her. But I had to go now....I had to go back to heaven. My next memory is waking up in the hospital.
I guess during that time my Great Grandmother, who was an army nurse, was not going to let some little sign stop her from seeing me. Quarantine be damned, she was coming in so my Mom could get a little rest. She only stayed a few hours from what I was told later. She said she could not "bear to watch that child be put in the ground when she died". Oh....the comforting words of a nurse. Glad I didn't hear it, maybe I did, who can say. I spent over a month on the communicable disease ward at USC Hospital. My skin blistered and peeled like no other sunburn you have ever seen. My hair fell out and I looked like a chemo patient, not a kid with a fever. Scarlet fever, dilantin poisoning (too high of a dose for someone that never needed the medication) viral hepatitis, kidney and liver failure. Now there is a diagnosis for a eight or nine year old huh?
Liver failure. Damn. There is a life changer. Good thing ignorance is bliss at that age. But, you thinking...WTF does this have to do with potato chips. Refer back to the liver. The one organ that with rest and food can start to rebuild. The one thing I do remember is that doctors visit. The one where he said, "Ma'am. If your child is to ever get better she needs plenty of rest and let her eat. If she can hold down food let her eat. What ever she wants, when ever she wants. " The handsome man in the starched white coat with ice blue eyes looked at me and said, "honey, if you want to eat BBQ potato chips and drink chocolate milk, you just go right a head".
Woo-Hoo!!! Now that is better than saying you can have all the ice cream you want after having your tonsills out. (which by the way, my doctor did not believe that and I got jello). I was discharged home on July 4, 1972 (or 1973..I would need to look). All of our neighbors pitched in and we had a fireworks show that was bigger, better and longer than the one at the Rose Bowl that night. And there I sat with my chips and chocolate milk.
Almost 40 years later. When life starts to suck and something happens, there I sit with my BBQ potato chips and if available, my chocolate milk. Yesterday was a pretty rough day. Lots going on at home and with the our family. We had a potluck at my work for two of the nurses that were leaving. Without even thinking, I grabbed some potato chips, barbecue of course, and went back to my desk to continue working. There I was typing away, knocking out the cases while without even thinking about it, continued to munch on the chips there beside my keyboard. That's when it dawned on me....barbecue chips, the chicken soup of my soul. The comforter when I am sad or depressed. The bringer of joy and happiness. My entire life it had soothed and comforted me. It was my little salty Valium. The righter of wrongs, my everything.
It was, as they say, my Ah-Ha moment. The light went on. A moment of clarity. Weight issues partially explained right? Nahhh, it was my Homer Simpson moment. The pure and ignorant bliss like he feels with his doughnuts. Arrggghhhh chips.