(Dear Reader: Since I wrote this a few days ago I have been hearing and seeing on the news programs alarming words about this year’s Flu season. This a quote from MSNBC: “Nationwide, the flu has spread to more than 80 percent of the U.S., latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated. More than 2,200 people had been hospitalized since October, and 18 children have died.” joseph)
Around 1917, one in five American children did not live to be six years old. Influenza and pneumonia along with tuberculosis and simple afflictions such as diarrhea decimated our populations. Life expectancy for men was only fifty-three years and for women, life expectancy was fifty-four.
Infant mortality in some towns and cities was as high as 30%. Diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever and whopping cough were common and potentially fatal diseases. In the 1880s and in the early 1900s so many people died from influenza, a new word was invented, it was called a Pandemic. Researchers estimated that about 675,000 died died from influenza in the years 1918 to 1919.
It happened again, that worried look on my mother’s face. This time there was a new circle of women there helping my mom. Most of them were John’s people, he had a lot of relatives. His grandfather had twenty-two children and all of them had large families as well. That meant there were many aunts and uncles and cousins. Most of them lived nearby.
I believe my mom had missed the mysterious ways and presence of Doña Tula, but the ladies that did show up had their own mysterious ways. They showed up and took over. It was just like in the old Western movies, water was boiling, the ladies were rushing back and forth in the kitchen to the girls’ bedroom. One lady brought in leaves from the lemon tree outside and made some tea.
The rest of us stayed outside. John got a campfire glowing in the backyard. None of the rest of us were allowed to be inside, so John and Roberto spread out blankets for us to sleep on near the fire. He had a plow disc and put it on the fire like a bowl. He used that to cook some meat for us.
As I struggled to fall asleep I could hear the ladies inside all of them were busy. I knew my mama was crying, she was too miserable and worried to do anything else. I could hear the sounds of the ladies praying.
We woke up in the early morning light to the sounds of wailing.
She was my older sister.
She was the one that took me by the hand
and showed my around my new school.
She taught me to say yes and no.
She taught me to say please and thank you.
She helped me understand
what the teachers expected of me in school and even around town.
She taught me how to read.
She was my friend and my playmate.
She was my sister.
“Alice” María Alejandrina Nájera (1902 to 1917)