“Take care of all of your memories. For you cannot relive them.”
- Bob Dylan
For a 1958 Saturday Evening Post
cover, Norman Rockwell created a painting of a young boy standing on a chair and facing the wall in the doctor’s office. The boy stares at the large diploma directly in front of him, his hands securely holding onto his unbuckled pants. While he waits, the distinguished, white-smocked doctor, working across the room, unhurriedly prepares an injection. The image, “The Doctor’s Office,” brings back vivid memories for me.
I grew up in the 1960’s. I can recall the tinge of anxiety as I held my mother’s hand in the lobby of the Medical Arts Building. I can remember anticipating the jolts as the operator clanked the internal metal cage shut before the elevator lurched into action. I can see the heavy dark varnish covering all of the woodwork in the corridors and hear the rattle of the frosted glass-paneled doors as they opened and closed down the hallway. I can smell the mercurochrome, taste the thermometer that had been soaked in disinfectant, feel the cotton ball soaked with alcohol on my arm, and taste the sugar cube impregnated with the polio vaccine. I can hear the crinkling paper sheet under my legs and feel my legs swinging as I sat waiting forever for the doctor to come into our room.
Mostly I remember the doctor exploding into the room, greeting my mother, and telling me how big I was getting. He smelled of cigarette smoke in a time when that was just fine. His stethoscope was cold but his hands were large and warm as he moved through the exam, felt my belly, checked my reflexes, and tousled my hair. I remember the relief if the doctor grinned at me and announced, “No shot today, Sonny Boy!”
Years later, I learned that my pediatrician had been on an academic faculty earlier in his career, publishing papers on the effects of war on children and authoring a book on normal pediatric growth and development. But as I was growing up, he was the unhurried, reassuring man in the white smock with the booming voice and ready smile who worked in a building with a really cool elevator.
The following is feedback received for this blog:
Hi! Loved your last Reflections. Do you know that Dr. [XXX] was your first pediatrician? He was awful. I was doing everything wrong; He bawled me out!
[My friend] got the same treatment. She brought little Mike in and when Dr. XXX stepped out for something, Mike asked "Has he gone to get a gun?" You can see why I switched pediatricians!
Keep Reflections coming!