Diphtheria is a bacterial infection often affecting the membranes of your nose and throat. Symptoms include a sore throat, fever, nosebleeds, swollen glands on the throat, and weakness. The telling symptom is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of the throat. This can often block the windpipe causing a gasping for breath. The infection can often be fatal especially in children, as many as 10 percent of people who get diphtheria die of it.
It happened again, this time here in Oxnard, that worried look on my mama’s face. A new circle of women showed up to help my mom. Most of them were my stepdad’s people, John Olivas had a lot of relatives. His grandfather had twenty-three 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 missed the mysterious ways and presence of Doña Tula back in Mexicali. She was from the mountains and spoke her own language, but she always when anyone needed help. I thought is was strange that she was my size and I was just a boy.
The ladies that did show up had their own mysterious ways. They came and took over. It was just like in the movies, water was boiling. One lady brought in leaves from the lemon tree outside and made some tea. They rushed in and out of the girl’s bedroom.
The rest of the menfolk and children stayed outside. We were not allowed to be inside. John got a campfire glowing in the backyard. He had a plow disc and put it over the fire. He used that to cook some meat for us. He and Roberto spread out blankets for everyone to sleep on.
As I struggled to fall asleep I could hear the ladies inside. Al of them were busy, all night long.
We woke up in the early morning light to the sounds of wailing.
Alice went to sleep.
She was the one that took me by the hand
and showed me around my new school.
She taught me to say yes and no.
She taught me to say thank you.
She helped me understand
what the teachers expected of me
in school and even around town.
She was my friend and my playmate.
She taught me how to read,
Alice, Maria Alejandrina Nájera (1902 to 1917)