By Trudi Kappel
In the fall of 1957, my senior year in high school, the Hong Kong flu became pandemic. At the small boarding school I attended, the infirmary was overwhelmed with sick students. Satellite infirmary rooms were set up in the dorms.
Healthy students ferried supplies between buildings. Nobody used masks or any other protective gear. More students got sick.
Then the school was quarantined - on MY BIRTHDAY!!! Bummer! In previous years, my parents would visit and take me out for a celebratory restaurant meal. This year, I was not allowed to leave campus.
As consolation, Mom baked me a big double-decker birthday cake and they delivered it in the afternoon. We lived 30 country road miles away from the school. My parents decided to take advantage of the trip so before returning home they went out for dinner (boo-hoo, without me) and then saw a movie.
At dinner that evening, school officials announced a meeting of all healthy students at 7PM. School would close for two weeks and everybody should go home as quickly as possible. Do-at-home assignments were handed out.
I raced to the pay phone hoping to locate my parents before they left the area. No luck. There was a long line behind me at the phone so I went to share out my cake.
The theater had paged my parents but mangled the pronunciation of our name so badly that they didn't respond. After the movie, Dad asked at the box office if anybody had responded to that page. No. And the girl who was calling seemed anxious.
Dad thought, could it be? With difficulty he managed to get a call through to that very busy pay phone, and said he would pick me up in an hour.
It was a very busy hour. I distributed the cake and packed books and clothes for two weeks and left. I spent those two weeks at home without so much as a sniffle.
One of my assignments was to read the Russian novel, The Brothers Karamazov. I put it off and put it off. Long Russian novels were and are not my thing.
The day before we were to return, I skimmed the first 50 pages. I figured when my English teacher started discussing the book, I would be able to keep ahead of her.
Ahem. I never read another page. She didn't mentioned it when classes resumed. I didn't ask.
Life returned to normal as I hope that it will soon for us now. Current status: I am not so bored to resume reading the Brothers but it could happen.