Around this time in 1955, I got the shingles. Yes, I was a little girl in elementary school with herpes zoster, a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash that trailed a blistered stripe up my right thigh, around my hip, and across my lower back.
You've seen ads on television with old men like Terry Bradshaw talk about the debilitating pain? Even though this happened sixty years ago, I still remember the scorching, shooting pain. It was worse at night. I'd wake up screaming and bucking in my bed from the agony. My mother would come in and rub lotion on the blisters and tell me how sorry she was that I was hurting, that she would take the pain from me and carry it herself if she could. Mothers are like that, you know.
Mother was among those women who, after World War II, continued working outside the home--from 8 - 5, Monday through Friday. Like many families in the South, we had a maid who came in during the week, who cleaned and cooked and made sure we weren't latch-key kids. But when I got sick, Mother stayed home with me. My brothers were at school, so it was as if I were an only child, and she showered me with her attention.
Valentine's Day occurred toward the end of my affliction and Mother went to Duke & Ayres, the local "five and dime" store, and brought home red construction paper, scissors, paste, lollipops, copper pennies, strings of brightly colored yarn, and other trinkets that have faded from memory. We sat at the dining room table where we cut out heart shapes and created our own valentines. On the ones decorated with the strings of yarn, we wrote "String long with me, Valentine." The ones with pennies were inscribed with "It makes cents for you to be my Valentine." And my favorite, "I'm a sucker for you, Valentine" was written across the hearts with the lollipops attached.
Having shingles at such a young age is something I would not wish on anyone. But having my mother all to myself as she created a love-filled memory that has lasted a lifetime is something every daughter should experience.
My mother is no longer of this earth, but her memory is alive in my heart, and today, the day after Valentine's Day 2015, she still comforts me.