I have always loved the classic children’s works written by the likes of Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, L. M. Montgomery and their contemporaries. I love the films bringing them to life, especially if they have Shirley Temple in them.
So I have never found it easy to hear someone talk about Scarlet Fever as a treatable, curable malady. The very words bring about visions of sick rooms, drawn bed clothes, the solemn ticking of a grandfather clock and shadows.
A few weeks ago I was exposed to Scarlet Fever. Last week I battled a serious bout of strep throat. This morning I awoke covered in red dots.
After a trip to the doctor, I have been given flight clearance to mingle as much as I want. The course of antibiotics make me safe to be around whether I have a case of Scarlet Fever or an allergy to the medication.
Still, I find the scenes from children’s literature, the classic and its poorer cousin, dance wildly in my head. The drawings of Edward Gorey taunt me and make me want to have that chocolate bar instead of resisting. Life is short and all that.
Children’s literature can uplift, inspire and inform. These old images, however, are not helping me put this into perspective. On the other hand, seen in a providential light, the images so skillfully wrought by our writing predecessors serve not only to make me wary, but also to incite gratitude. Looking back on the works of the foremothers of children’s literature, I can feel inspired by the deftly written story. At the same time, I am grateful yet again that I live in this time. Grateful for the present of a world in which scarlet fever need not be written in capital letters or dealt with in fear. Grateful for a world in which there is the medication to treat the malady. Very importantly, I am grateful for the fact that I have health insurance.