Friday, November 04, 2005

The summer of my yellow dress, pt. 2

It was still the summer season when we gathered that Sunday at Uncle John's for a family dinner. If not summer on the calendar, at least if you look at the clothing in this photograph, it was a hot day. Oh all the cousins! My paternal grandparents had nine children, all but two living in Illinois. It's possible someone was visiting from California, and they may have been the reason we were together for a Sunday dinner, because it really didn't happen often. It didn't need to. We usually spent Sunday afternoon at Grandma's and you just never knew who might drop in.

See how glamorous and grown up I felt in this dress? Here I am, a 10 year old, posing with my much older cousin, Evelyn, who was 15. Also, notice the braids are gone and the dress is a bit tight--I was probably having a growth spurt. Usually, I wore my sister's hand-me-downs, but the yellow dress was all mine--and this Sunday may have been the last time I ever wore it. Summer was over this terrible Sunday and in 1950 it probably went into the "missionary barrel."

Terrible because it was either that night or the next day that Jimmy, Evelyn's brother, was taken to the hospital where he died in a week or so of bulbar polio. He was the most beautiful, delightful child--smart, athletic and loaded with personality and a head of black curls. Several years ago I went to a high school reunion and one of the guys talked about outstanding athletes from our little town, and even mentioned Jimmy, fifty plus years after he'd died in sixth grade.

Terrible because we'd all been exposed. Can you imagine the worry of the parents who had gathered for a simple family dinner, watching their children every day for the tell-tale signs of polio. And then it struck again, this time my sister Carol shortly after Jimmy's burial. She survived, but my childhood didn't.

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