I went into a mother-mandated quarantine when I was about 7 years old.
I still remember suffering from a nasty cough and a way-too-high fever that made me feel limp, washed out, and yearning desperately for a very large scoop of chocolate ice cream — “to break the fever” — as I explained to my mother. I even remember the doctor peering into my mouth and describing it as, “an angry little throat that’s as red as a berry.”
So Mother decided to shut everything down. With six other children, a husband and two tabby cats under the same roof, she did what she had to do. She’d done it before and she’d do it again, and she did it without apology or wasted words: Contain the contagion. Simple as that. It was not just a common-sense courtesy but a non-negotiable, rock-solid mandate of communal living. Even as a child, though, I remember being distinctly aware that I’d been so quickly isolated because I was so deeply, deeply loved.
My exile was about as excellent as any exile could be, and what made it so was Mother. I knew her goal wasn’t to banish me as much as it was to get me better.
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