When I was 8 or 9, I played a game that I invented with my friends.
On index cards, alphabetized in a recipe box, were written descriptions of fictional ailments, each with a ridiculous name and an equally ridiculous cure. In order to diagnose what illness my playmates suffered from, I would ask them a list of questions including, “Do you worry about being late?” “Do you have time to do what you like?” and “Are your shoes or boots uncomfortable?” Then I would just watch them for telltale symptoms like moving more than three times during the interview. Based on what I heard and saw, I would distribute the cards I had made.
I was reading this box of cures today.
Working my way through the box, I read about a disease called, “Frinks, a low-down feeling,” the cure for which was to sing and watch comedy. There was also a disease that involved feeling too good, aptly named “Feel-too-gooditis,” the cure for which was to avoid smiling, read the obituary page, and drink only water. A sleepy illness called “Droops” was cured by washing one’s face in ice water every half hour.
There were a couple of illnesses like “Jumps,” which had no symptoms, but whose cure involved reading a good book. (I think this is an illness I might still suffer from) and there was a nervous illness cured by lying in the dark and pretending you were flying.
One illness was cured by “listening to the floor.” A “scatterbrained illness” called “Xoorkirs” was cured by counting your steps on the way home and memorizing a nonsensical passage I’d written on the back of the card about planting tulip bulbs and emery boards on Tuesdays, orange rivers, and swimming bears.
Many illnesses were cured by drinking a lot of water — sometimes hot and sometimes cold. Although there was also “Sop Op,” which was “an overly watery illness” cured by drinking nothing but milk, chewing on cardboard, and telling three people you were a lizard.
The last card was “Zandermeir, an unsure illness,” which could only be cured by narrating everything you did. I provided an example: “I just drank a glass of water.”
I’m not sure, in retrospect, what made this game fun. While I can imagine I enjoyed writing the cards, I wonder how much fun my playmates had drinking all that water and chewing on cardboard. But I do know we played it and I have hung onto the cards all these years.
I got thinking about my box of cures today because my husband, Peter, has a bad back and he has tried everything to make it better. He has read the books and done exercises and stretches and used lumbar support at literally every opportunity, including quite a number that would never have occurred to me. He has been utterly diligent, and it is breaking my heart that he is in so much pain today.
And since I have no suggestions, I got to thinking about my little box of cards and how good I used to be at curing anything you could imagine. It was simple to eat an orange peel and repeat, “Glip Glop rocky mop pop!” several times over and feel better, according to my 9-year-old self. Things are less simple today.
Today, I find myself able to do almost nothing except, occasionally, make Peter smile.
But then, making someone smile was all my little cures in a box were ever able to do. And sometimes that is the best that can be done.
Till next time,
Carrie Carrie Classon’s memoir is called “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.