Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Most Stubborn One of All

Over the years, it was always a contest between Linda and Gus, one year younger than his sister, as to which child was the most stubborn. The youngest, Tim, wasn't in the running, compared to his brother and sister. When Linda and Gus refused to budge in an argument, Tim would often wind up being the peacemaker. Poor Tim usually got stuck washing the dishes that were supposed to be done before Nancy came home from work, because Linda and Gus couldn't agree on whose turn it was. They were frequently still yelling at each other when Mom walked in the door.

Linda's stubbornness could be traced back to first grade. One day when Linda returned home from school at lunchtime and sat down to eat with the boys in front of the Howdy Doody Show on the television, she pitched a fit. The nerve of her brother! Gus was drinking from the glass that she wanted. The drinking glasses were jelly jars, and they were each decorated with different cartoon characters. Porky Pig was playing the trumpet on Linda's favorite glass. She had helped Mom pick out the jar of jelly at the market, caring much more about the pig on the outside of the jar than the flavor of the jelly inside.

"Ma-om," Linda whined, "I want to drink out of the Porky Pig glass," as she stomped into the bathroom. Behind the closed door, Nancy could hear Linda sobbing loudly. Linda screamed, "Nooooo" when offered another cartoon character glass, her voice full of anger and frustration. By the time Linda had to walk back to school for the afternoon session, Tim had finished his lunch. He ate extra slow, because Linda couldn't have the glass as long as he was still drinking from it. Nancy patiently washed and filled the glass with milk, and brought it to her daughter who was seated on the toilet. After finishing the milk, Linda rushed back to school, leaving her uneaten lunch and the boys in front of the television set.

Later that night, Gus got sick and threw up. Linda thought that it served him right for drinking out of her favorite glass when she wanted it. Gus was still sick the next morning when Linda left for school. Mom held Gus and felt his forehead with the palm of her cool hand, noticing how hot Gus was. He had thrown up several more times, and Mom asked Dad to call the doctor before he left for work that afternoon. After dinner, Dr. Weinstein came over to the tenement apartment to check on Gus. Those were the days when doctors still made house calls, which was a good thing, since Nancy would have had to take two buses with a sick child plus her two other children to get to the doctor's office.

Dr. Weinstein took out his stethoscope and listened to Gus' chest as he breathed big breaths and then normal breaths. The doctor put a thermometer into Gus' mouth and waited to check it. Then he told Nancy and Gus that he would need to give Gus a shot. "Ouch, a shot," thought Gus. "No, I don't want a shot," he announced to Nancy and Dr. Weinstein. As the doctor took the medicine out of his black bag to prepare to give Gus the shot, Gus wriggled out of bed and crawled under the bed. There, Gus clung to the wire underframe of the bed with both his hands and feet and refused to come out no matter how much his mother demanded it. Nancy and Dr. Weinstein tried together to pull Gus out, from one side of the bed, and then the other, and Gus just held on even tighter. Finally, Dr. Weinstein gave up and left the little apartment, and Gus climbed back into bed. Nancy was exhausted from fighting with her son.

Nancy sure had a story to tell Dad when he came home from work the next morning. Gus was someone whose stubbornness couldn't be overcome even by two grown-ups tugging at his four-year old body. Gus' stubbornness would make his school years challenging for Mom and Dad as he grew older, which we'll save for another storytime.

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