It’s a constant theme in war movies.

Our hero is aloft and managing just fine. Suddenly, a problem. The engine stalls. There’s a mechanical splutter. We see the whirring propeller stutter and stop. 

An eerie quiet.

The high pitched whine as the plane starts to lose altitude and spiral downward. The crash.  

A clutch of startled birds fly into the sky.

Crash and burn.

Welcome to my holiday season.

Unwell: it’s a word from a vampire movie, like un-dead.

In the week before Christmas, the engine started to splutter. I started to feel a little unwell.

I love that word: unwell. It’s a word from a vampire movie, like un-dead.

Meaning, not not well enough to be called well, but not exactly sick, either.  

I sat on the hearth at a holiday party.  I was inexplicably cold despite being as close to the fire as was humanly possible. You’re doing an admirable job, I told myself.

I was still aloft but I wondered just how soon I could go home.

Upon arriving home, I got right into bed.

Fully clothed.

Teeth unbrushed.

I was descending into my death spiral.

Sleep should have come instantly were it not for how cold I’d become. I had chills, they were multiplyin’ and I was losing control. And by control, I mean all of the cinematic displays that accompany illness.

I had chills, they were multiplyin’ …

As I lay with my head on the toilet seat, I thought about the Christmas tree that was still slumbering within the crawlspace. My plan had been to assemble it the next day. My plans were changing.

And so it went.

For a solid week.

Nothing got wrapped. The halls stayed undecked. I was as sick as I’ve ever been. Norovirus, apparently.

And this is when I came to learn that a lot of my friends are whack jobs. Now, these are people with jobs and library cards. They floss and they vote. They walk amongst us giving every appearance as normal people. As word got out that I was sick, friends started mentioning home remedies. Apparently, I could hasten the conclusion of my ailment with things on hand in the kitchen.

Until this moment, I hadn’t heard that placing a cut up onion in your sock could cure you of a stomach bug. The idea is to cut up either an onion – any colour – place it in your sock overnight and the sulphuric compounds would combat the viruses and bacteria.  Apparently, the practise originated back when the Black Death was stalking Europe. Potatoes are also used in a similar fashion as a medicinal. A jar of shockingly yellow steeped ginger, lemon and turmeric was deposited on the doorstep. This concoction is famous for its anti-inflammatory capacities. I lay staring at it, recalling the amber-coloured, cellophane wrapped Lucozade of my childhood. Lucozade – sweet and carbonated – was our household’s cure-all; the silver lining of childhood illnesses.

Photo from Flashback

A friend recounted how her granddad would wrap his old sock around his neck when he had a sore throat. Did it work? He claimed it did. He also slept with his head facing south in order to be in line with the earth’s electromagnetic pull. Did it work? He was hale and hearty well into his 90s.

When you’re sick you’ll try just about anything. For me, that meant sleeping for 16 hours a day.

My only consolation? I wasn’t going to have to take down that Christmas tree.

And there it was:  the silver lining of adult, holiday illnesses.

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This week’s question for readers:


Submissions to last week’s question:

What were your favourite books from childhood?  

My favorite book as a kid was The Lemonade Trick, by Scott Corbet. It was about a boy who was given a chemistry set and concocts a potion that turns bullies into nice guys and nice guys into bullies. The memory of that book always makes me smile as it takes me back almost 50 years and I’m 12 years old again.

Wes Fung

So many books, but I do remember a few even after all these years.  The earliest that I recall is the Freddy the Pig series by Walter Brooks, starting with Freddy the Detective.  Later on I enjoyed John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (English class tended to kill the pleasure of books, but not this one), and, in my teens, just about anything science fiction, starting with Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, and anything from Arthur C. Clarke, but especially The Lensman series by E.E. Doc Smith.  Oh, and I recently read Watership Down.  Wow!  It’s now top of my list.

Ron Vanderhelm

Every Christmas my Scottish relatives always sent the Annual of Oor Willie or The Broons, comic strips which appeared weekly in Glasgow’s Sunday Post. As a voracious young reader,  I was also happy to receive one of the latest in the series Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, and Disney’s Spin and Marty.

Douglas C. Jameson

As a child whose father read me the Bible for bedtime stories, try the old testament for puzzling tales like Abraham killing his son. I was pleased to get a beautifully illustrated The Scottish Chiefs for my fifth Christmas. The story of William Wallace has probably influenced my thinking and memories lifelong! 

Lesley Bohm

I loved “The Black Stallion” by Walter Farley as a boy.  A plucky red-headed teenager, an exotic adventure at sea, the wild and enormous stallion, a thrilling race, the black-and-white drawings: all this transported me from 1960’s Edmonton to far-away worlds and incredible adventures.  I rode horses (badly) on Saturday mornings with 2 friends so I imagined myself in the book.  Far from it! Riding huge horses was scary; I definitely was the bookworm type. But that’s the gift to children of reading: imaginative and adventurous journeys within a book! Thanks for the memory prompt.

James Harcott

During my preteen years, the Trixie Belden mystery books were my favourites, providing me with countless hours of reading pleasure. They became my gift of choice and the complete collection quickly grew. Those treasured books got moved many times during my adulthood but always found a place on my bookshelves. After years of sentimental attachment, I finally donated them with the hope that another child might enjoy them as much as I did. I kept one that was personalized and dated in the neat H.B. Maclean handwriting of my nine year-old self. That one book is a childhood connection to the avid reader I am today.

Paula Alvaro

No one had TV in my hometown, however, my parents made up for it by keeping a steady supply of picture books in my bedroom.  My favourite books were a set of Chinese idioms and their stories.  Each idiom is 4 characters long and from different historical periods.  As an example, the idiom from the Three Kingdoms period, 220 to 280 AD:  “普天同慶”, means “universal celebration “.

Valerie Takounseun

You mentioned two of my favourites: Wind in the Willows, and The Borrowers. For my seventh birthday my parents gave me an illustrated copy (probably not unlike your copy of Heidi) of Black Beauty. I still have it, and maybe I can still see the tear stains on some pages. But the book I returned to over and over was The Family From One End Street, by Eve Garnett. That book gave me such comfort when I had night fears. It recently reappeared in an old box at my brother’s. Despite its tattered condition, I hugged it with joy as though reuniting with an old friend after countless years.

Madeleine Lefebvre 

My favourite books as a child were the “Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis. I was always a voracious reader (still am) and I can remember riding my bicycle to the library and bursting into tears when I was told I had read all the series. Maybe that’s why I love armoires in my home that unfortunately don’t lead anywhere except to more clothes! All the “Nancy Drew” mysteries were also popular and I eventually owned all of them. (“Hardy Boys” just didn’t cut it.)

Laura Goldstein

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