HARMON: New member freshens old memories

February 19, 2014 

By the time you read this I will be a grandfather, living in the camper out back, or looking for the Valium bottle. The boy is supposedly “on the way,” and is no longer referred to as “it” but “Harmon.” That’s his name.

My new name as the grandfather has yet to be determined and will be the result of some incoherent babbling the child does when he sees a bald, old person with reading glasses, staring at him from above the crib. It’s a scary thought but that’s how grandparents are usually named.

Holding the little guy will be out of the question until cleared by his mother who, at this point, is willing to do anything to give birth. But I digress. The popup is where I go nowadays to read, meditate and reminisce ... sometimes remembering the world of a 5-year-old boy.

I suppose we all have things we’d like to forget and can’t -- but sometimes a memory can bring back a world in which innocence was king. One of my earliest memories is watching children walking down a road toward school when I was 5. There was no kindergarten back then. Breakfast was served at home and I was “home schooled” until the age of 6, so there really wasn’t a good reason to go to school. Besides, I had a great home school teacher right there in the house. We called her “Mom” because she was our mother and dad liked her because she taught us for free.

Of course it wasn’t always about book learning. For instance, I remember a time when being a 5-year-old M.D. was considered a worthy goal. There I was, sneaking around my dad’s chair with a “worldly nurse practitioner,” in the guise of a 5-year-old girl, while he was totally focused on an Albuquerque, N.M. newspaper.

I don’t remember much after that, but I know I had one of those make believe doctor kits and some candy Chesterfield cigarettes, so we were probably on our way to some make believe doctor’s office and up to no good. I have to believe, if we’d been caught, the memory of it would still be up in the old noggin somewhere, as dad would have taught me the meaning of the word “quackery” and the importance of waiting until you have a license before practicing “medicine.”

In my defense, “Love of Life” was the popular “soap” back then and I’m sure my “M.D.” ideas came to me from watching the “soaps” during home school recess. Hopefully, I was a family practitioner, as were most of the guys on the soaps. Soap doctors were always seen smoking a Chesterfield when they talked to the nurses, and in 1951, cigarette TV commercials were also common.

The trail of smoke wafting from the doctor’s nose was seen as irresistible to a nurse (deer/salt licks and corn come to mind). Although this might be considered predatory behavior today (Bill Clinton) it was OK back then. In fact, instead of being additive and causing diseases, they said the Chesterfield was a must, if one was to get a nurse.

Soap doctors were so passionate about cigarettes and the nurses that came with them, even a 5-year-old M.D. like me, could see the possibilities of a thriving practice with a pack of candy Chesterfields and a plastic stethoscope.

Mom and dad both smoked Chesterfields back then, although neither was in the medical profession, so we got a load of unfiltered secondhand smoke and I’m the only one of five children who wasn’t smoking something or other when the war on drugs started.

I believe we’ve lost that one. I guess you could say my drug of choice back then was Merthiolate. Taken with a dropper and dumped into the back of the throat, that stuff could sure get your attention. Mom, with five kids on whom to practice, was an expert at putting it precisely on the tonsil. Then, “gargle and don’t forget to spit,” she’d say. Between that Merthiolate and a mouth full of mercury fillings, it’s a wonder I’m still here. The tonsillitis went away when I moved out. Ah, the wonders of a good memory and medical science.

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.

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