Tag Archives: Volunteering

Of tonsils and candy stripers

Bloganuary: What is the earliest memory you have?

My earliest memory is having my tonsils out when I was three years old. Most of these memories are fragmented. Being in a huge bed is one, although whether that’s true, I can’t really say. I was small for my age, constantly sick from my rogue tonsils. Any bed would have felt enormous.

The other memory, the most vivid one, was glimpsing ethereal, enchanting creatures in red and white. These teenagers. These candy stripers.

They made such an impression that when I turned twelve, I volunteered at our local hospital. At first, I had to wear the blue and white striped uniform (a visual cue for the nursing staff), but within a year, I’d graduated to the coveted red and white striped one.

My shift partner was a girl from the junior high across town. Rhonda was sunshine itself bursting into the rooms, often three patients in a room, chatting and laughing. I was endlessly shy. I busied myself refilling water pitchers, pouring juice, and being asked why I wasn’t as smiley and talkative as Rhonda.

We were a good team. She made everyone happy. I kept us on task and made sure everyone had fresh ice.

Each shift earned us a meal ticket to the hospital cafeteria, which thrilled us to no end. The macaroni and cheese with the breadcrumbs on top? Followed by chocolate pudding?

Chef’s kiss.

Sometimes I think about my rogue tonsils and how they led me down this path. I was never as ethereal or enchanting as the candy stripers of my memory, although I desperately wanted to be. But I like to think something came full circle during those three years of volunteering at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

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