Needles

At the end of February, the COVID-19 vaccine was made available to teachers in my state.

My district went to work immediately, setting up sites and online registration.

The quickest appointment I could get was at a high school gym.

Upon entering, seeing the tables set all around the perimeter, I was struck with a sense of déjà vu, sort of.

Flashback to another school gym. For just a second, I was there in a long line of people. Standing with my mother, my little sister.

To be vaccinated against swine flu.

I’d nearly forgotten.

This COVID rollout was so different. For one thing, masks. Another, no long lines; still not safe. I stood six feet behind one person for a just few seconds in the hallway outside the gym before he was directed to enter. Slight pause, and I was permitted. Someone pointed me to a table across the room. After giving my name and getting my official paper, I was told to sit in one of the six or so well-spaced chairs in the center of the gym. I didn’t think to count how many immunization stations were set up around the walls, mostly because I didn’t have time; I sat for less than a minute before someone came over to point me to one of them. Quick review of my info, protocol of a few questions, and the deed was done. Barely felt it before the administrator tossed the syringe into the biohazard container and congratulated me. She gave me a little CDC card. Moderna. A jolt of cheer in the knowledge that this is the vaccine Dolly Parton funded; she got her shot that same day. A layer of comfort, somehow. I’d just written of Dolly and one of her songs two days before. It’s like being blood-sisters now. Kind of.

From the time I arrived to the time I left: less than ten minutes.

Couldn’t help remembering, as I walked out into the warm sunshine of an imminent spring, all the hours spent waiting in doctor’s offices as a child, getting an allergy shot in each arm every week, then every other week, then at home when my mother was eventually allowed to give them. How my mother’s health issues involved so many hospital stays and doctor’s visits that her friends dubbed her “Pins and Needles,” a double entendre on her vocation as a seamstress.

I walked on, considering my own shadow as it glided along the parking lot pavement, mulling how needles prick the arm only for an instant in the aim of protection and preservation and then are gone, whereas needles in the memory can provoke reactions and pain for a lifetime. I feel the swelling of many stories, there.

But just as I did when I was small, I waited the allotted time to be sure there was no reaction to the injection. Once upon a time, my dad waited with me; now it’s my husband driving my inoculated self home. He wants to drive me back for the last one.

In the end, it’s just a matter of doing what must be done, and going on.

*******

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 14, I am writing around a word beginning with letter n. Amazing, the number of associations and memories threading through one simple, sharp word.

21 thoughts on “Needles

  1. I have my “needle memories” from my childhood too, but none of them were very good feelings; I was just scared as a little child. But for this one, COVID vaccine, I feel grateful and some sort of accomplishment. I even got so excited when I got to book my appointments. I’m so glad you had yours safely. I loved the way you had a flashback to your childhood in the similar situation that you have had recently. Stay safe and healthy, Fran!

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  2. Thankful you got the vaccine in such an efficient manner. The way you slowed down the moment afterwards is beautifully crafted, from noticing your shadow to your reflections about the past. I reread these lines to let them sink in; “needles prick the arm only for an instant in the aim of protection and preservation and then are gone, whereas needles in the memory can provoke reactions and pain for a lifetime.” The “swelling of many stories” is so on point.

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  3. I love this metaphor of needles as memory. There’s so much to it, this idea that something so quick and precise can have such long and far-reaching effects. Just like this post – quick to read but laser-focused, sure to stay with me for a while…

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  4. I was so glad to get my first Covid shot (Pfizer), and I barely even felt it. No side effects, either. Will be relieved to get shot 2 next Saturday. I remember other shots that were much harder to take, especially those required before our family was stationed overseas as a military family.

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    • So glad you got it – my husband and sons got Pfizer and all are doing well. We’ll soon be done with dose 2. I can only imagine the barrage of injections you faced, going to live overseas. Military families make so many noble sacrifices.

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  5. Slowly the feeling of a more “normal” life returns as more and more are vaccinated. What a forward thinking district! I wish all teachers would be so lucky to have administrations prepared so well. I don’t remember swine-flu shots, but I do remember polio shots and sugar cubes with the vaccine. I’m really getting old. 🙂

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    • Sugar cubes with the polio vaccine – that’s absolutely fascinating, Elsie! About more and more people getting the COVID vaccination: my husband the history buff says that the smallpox vaccine was once mandated and given by force, with government officials going to people’s homes and holding them down. Contrast that with how willing people are right now to face the needle and beat this thing.

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  6. I am glad to hear that you were able to get your vaccine! Great news. I have thought often about how my grandma used to talk about when they all got the smallpox vaccine and how thankful she was.

    We did not get swine flu shots. I don’t think that I know anyone else who did either!

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  7. And there we have a memory of your mother….Vaccinations were many and often as a military kid. I even had several injections by air gun, during cholera outbreaks in Naples. Your line “needles in the memory can provoke reactions and pain for a lifetime” makes me wonder about stories you have left unwritten, and prompts memories of my own. On a practical note, it is wise to have your husband take you for the second Moderna shot; I can attest that it can pack a wallop.

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    • The swine flue shot must have been administered by air gun; I recall, standing in line, that the device was huge and frightening, maybe even red, but that memory is so faded. No needle, then, but still mass vaccination. Yes, many unwritten stories… and thanks for the heads up about dose 2. Yikes…

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