Christmas trees and the mumps

Published 7:30 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

If you opened my front door today, you might be surprised to see my Christmas tree still standing in its usual place in my living room. Every morning for more than a month, it has graced that spot, resplendent with a variety of beautiful colored lights. It brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart, so I see no reason yet to tuck it out of sight for another year. Maybe one day soon my son and a friend will drag it upstairs for storage.

There is never a Christmas when our tree comes out of storage that I don’t associate it with the mumps. A Christmas tree and mumps? What does one have to do with the other? A long time ago when our family lived in on-post in Bamberg, Germany, I woke up one cold December morning with a slight ache in my jaw. It progressed to a nagging pain by noontime. I had planned to go to a Bingo party that afternoon, so I tried to ignore the pain, took a couple of aspirin, and went to play Bingo. The pain eased some, and I enjoyed the party. By the time I returned home, I was really hurting. Thinking it might be a toothache or, joking that it might even be the mumps, I took more aspirin and went to bed holding a warm cloth close to my face. Sleep wasn’t long in coming. It didn’t last. I kept squirming, so my husband turned on the light, adjusted his eyes to the dark, and turned my head to one side. “You have the mumps,” he said. “Just go look in the mirror.” One side of my face looked all out of whack. It was evident to me as I blinked my eyes and gazed at myself in the mirror.

Early the next morning, my husband called his first sergeant. He told him I had the mumps and he was taking me to the doctor the first thing. It was a Thursday and their unit was scheduled for a four-day field problem beginning that day.

Something as drastic as the mumps in an adult was sufficient reason for him to miss it and stay home with me for a few days. That was good news to him to pass up spending those freezing days out in the miserable German weather.

The doctor confirmed our diagnosis and ordered me to bed, pointing out that I not dare put my hands in a dishpan for a week and a half. It was Monday of the next week that my husband returned to work. Then I was home with both children. They did well. Although reading is my favorite hobby, I was uncomfortable and pushed my reading material aside. Boredom set in.

I left the bed and moved to the sofa in the living room. When I drew open the blinds, I could hardly believe my eyes. My attention centered on the window of the second-floor apartment directly across from ours. Almost filling the window was an aluminum Christmas tree, with lights alternately turning red, green, blue, and yellow. When the sunshine touched the window, the tree sparkled and glittered. I spent hours looking at it. As long as I was restricted to the sofa, the tree got my attention.

After I was up and about, I met the couple who lived in the apartment with the tree. I told them I was pretty sure I had enjoyed their tree more than they had.

Christmas and mumps? Yes, I just want to treasure the joy I feel when I see the tree with its beautiful lights. Maybe it will continue to delight me for another month, without the mumps, that is.