Once upon a time long, long ago—in the 1960’s—a little girl named Suzi traveled downtown to see her doctor with her mommy, Wilma. For this visit, they did not travel the several city blocks there on a bus or in a cab, as they usually did. Instead, they rode in a car that Suzi’s mommy borrowed from her friend Nancy (her best friend from high school days who now lived only one block away).
“We’re running a little late for Suzi’s pediatrician appointment,” Wilma had told her friend over the phone at noon on this beautiful but hot summer day. “Suzi isn’t back from helping her granddaddy tie stakes to his tomato plants next to his backyard shed. I need to borrow your car if we are going to make it to the doctor’s office on time.”
“Well, my little Denny is still taking his nap,” Nancy told her friend, “so why don’t you walk over here to my house and get the keys and drive yourself?”
“That’s wonderful of you,” Wilma replied gratefully. “I’ll be there in a jiffy.”
And so Suzi’s mommy put on her red lipstick, picked up her black clutch purse, put on her sunglasses, tied her new sky blue silk scarf around her hair—to block the wind from the rolled down car windows—and walked briskly up the block to Nancy’s house.
“Thanks so much, Nancy,” Wilma said on the front porch as her friend handed over the keys to the four-door Buick parked on the street outside. “You’re a life saver.”
It was just a week before school would start for Little Suzi in the first grade at the red and white brick schoolhouse only two blocks away from their small white frame house on Magnolia Avenue. And so Suzi’s mommy needed to get her child’s inoculation record up to date to show the school nurse on the first day of class.
“What’s a ‘noculation?” Suzi had asked her invisible friend Albert after hearing her mother talk about it to Miss Nancy on the phone earlier in the week.
I don’t know, Albert told his friend, but I think the nurse sticks medicine in your arm and then gives you a lollypop if you’re good. Can I have one too?
No, a lollypop!
“Sure,” Suzi told Albert. “You can have mine if the nurse won’t give you one of your own.”
Dr. Lyon was the doctor who helped Little Suzi get born into the world (her obstetrician, her mommy called him) and Suzi’s mommy had been taking her to visit the good doctor ever since. The doctor’s office was located on the second floor of a tall brown building with two glass doors in the middle and a green metal door on the left-hand side. The doors in the middle were for people shopping for furniture in Sterchi’s on the first floor. The green door led to inside stairs that led up to offices on the upper floors. Some offices were for doctors, others for dentists. And some were for lawyers, or so Suzi’s mother told her.
The building was in the middle of a long street where tall, wide cars and taxi cabs lumbered up and down the street like so many shiny rhinoceroses. There was a traffic light and a policeman in the middle to let shoppers pass from one side of the crowded street to the other without getting run over. And if anyone tried to cross the street against the green light, the policeman blew his loud whistle and pointed for them to wait.
The rotund policeman wore a short sleeve, light blue shirt in summer that was always dark blue under the arms and light blue everywhere else. Suzi wondered why he didn’t just wear a shirt that was dark blue all over, but she never got a chance to ask him that question.
Today was like all summer days downtown—hot and sweaty. The streets were hot, the cars were hot, the people rushing up and down the sidewalk were hot, and the sun’s reflection against the windows in the tall buildings made it seem even hotter.
To make matters worse, Suzi’s mommy couldn’t find a parking spot right away and had to drive all the way down the block, turn around at the end, and drive back on the opposite side of the street before she found a wide and long space where a lady in a Cadillac was just pulling away from the curb at a meter.
Actually, a couple of parking places were empty along the street, but Suzi’s mommy did not drive a car often and did not feel comfortable trying to park the Buick in any but a fat parking space.
We had best be careful, Albert told Little Suzi. You’re mommy’s drivin’ today!
“Hurry on up now,” Suzi’s mommy told her as soon as she had parked the bulbous Buick in the fattest parking spot and put a dime in the parking meter so they wouldn’t get a ticket.
“Wait…Wait for Albert,” Little Suzi called to her mother as she climbed out of the back seat. “His shoe came off in the car.”
“He’ll catch up,” Suzi’s mommy answered as she turned the knob on the parking meter and stepped away down the wide sidewalk toward the busy corner at the traffic signal. “If you hurry, we can get across the street to the doctor’s office. The light’s red and the policeman has the cars stopped. Hurry on up, now!”
But Suzi held back to wait for her imaginary friend Albert to get his shoe back on and crawl out onto the curb before she shut the heavy metal door. She was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get out if the heavy door closed first. Or, worse yet, he might get an arm or leg caught in the door as it closed. Suzi had smashed a finger in one of those doors once when the grown-ups weren’t paying attention, and she would not ever forget how that hurt. It turned from red to purple to dark blue the over the next few days, and her fingernail almost fell off!
Luckily, on this day, Albert got out quickly and Suzi closed the door behind him just as her mother turned back to grab her hand and hurry toward the traffic light on the corner. Suzi barely got hold of Albert’s hand, but they all got to the corner just in time to run across in front of the chrome bumpers on the cars and trucks that loomed high above the child’s head. She rushed along behind her mother’s swirling skirts as they made it safely across. And the policeman didn’t need to blow his whistle even once.
Suzi wasn’t afraid or worried to go to her doctor’s office. He was a tall man in a long white coat, and he was always smiling and cheerful when he entered the examination room to see his little patient. After all, she always got a lollypop afterward. (“Grape or cherry, if you please,” just as her granny taught her to ask ever so politely.)
Even so, Suzi always took along her imaginary friend Albert to the doctor’s office to hold her hand and help her stay brave in the waiting room and in the cold, bright treatment room where she hopped up on the green metal table with its hard plastic seat.
Good thing you brought me with you, Albert told his friend. You just never know what might happen in a place like this.
“What might happen?” Little Suzi whispered quizzically.
Almost anything, Albert informed her. It could be medical or medicinal. You might even need an X-ray or something really scary like that!
“What’s an X-ray?” Little Suzi asked out loud.
“It’s a picture—a photograph—of your body inside, or parts of your body at least,” her mommy explained. “But you’re not getting an X-ray today, I shouldn’t think.”
“I know,” Little Suzi said off-handedly as if she already knew all about it.
“So how’s my favorite little patient doing today?” the tall Dr. Lyon asked as he entered the exam room smiling.
I thought you said he’s a baby doctor?! Albert whispered in Little Suzi’s ear. He’s the tallest baby I ever saw!
“No, he’s a doctor for babies, not a doctor who is a baby. That would be silly!” Suzi corrected Albert. “Mommy says he’s a pediatrician.”
Peed a what?! Albert asked, but the girl only ignored him.
“She starts first grade next week!” Suzi’s mommy told the doctor.
“Oh, my,” Dr. Lyon exclaimed. “You really are a big girl then, aren’t you?”
You’re not that big, Albert whispered to Suzi. Why does he think you’re so big? You’re no bigger than I am!
And after a few minutes of looking in her ears, nose and throat, the doctor stood back from the examination table. After that, he listened to Suzi’s little heart through the stethoscope around his neck. Next, he pulled a strange instrument out of his smock pocket. It had a rubber triangle head attached to a shiny metal handle.
Look out! He’s got a hammer! Albert warned.
“Don’t be silly,” Little Suzi told Albert silently. “It’s just a rubber hammer to check my knee-flexes.”
And after all that, the doctor stood up tall again, put his hands on his high hips, and declared, “I think you’re fit for school, young lady,” as he nodded to Suzi’s mommy and headed for the examination room door.
Whew, glad that’s over! Albert whispered to his friend.
But just then, a nurse arrived in the examination room with a gleaming silver tray covered by a blue linen napkin.
I hope that’s oatmeal raisin cookies! Albert exclaimed with anticipation. They’re my favorite!
But it wasn’t cookies on the tray the nurse set down on the table next to Little Suzi. The little girl took one glance, saw the clear syringe with its hypodermic needle, gulped, and looked fearfully away to her mommy.
“Be brave, dear,” Suzi’s mother told her. “Just squeeze your eyes shut and think about ice cream.”
But Little Suzi didn’t shut her eyes or think about ice cream. Instead, she grabbed onto Albert’s hand again and looked at her shoes until it was over.
Easy peazy, lemon squeezy, Albert whispered as her grip got tighter.
“That’s it!” the nurse declared much sooner than Suzi expected. “You can get down from the table now.”
“Thank you, nurse,” Suzi’s mommy said. Then she gathered up her scarf and purse and ushered her little daughter out of the room and toward the front desk, where they waited for a copy of Little Suzi’s inoculation record to give to the school nurse next week.
And then, after putting on her big round sunglasses, she took Little Suzi’s hand and headed back out to the hot city street.
“You were very good and very brave in the doctor’s office today,” Suzi’s mother said to her as they stepped back out into the bright sunlight of summer. “For a special treat, we’ll take the bus to Fountain City on Sunday to feed the ducks at the pond . . . and you can get an ice cream at Kay’s.”
“Albert, too,” she said. He was good today . . . wasn’t he?”
With her mommy holding her hand, and she holding Albert’s, Little Suzi and her mother started across the street as soon as the light turned red to stop traffic and the policeman signaled them to cross.
But, suddenly, right in the middle of the street, her mommy’s high-heel shoe caught on an old cobblestone left over from the electric trolley car tracks that still ran through the old street. Her mommy fell right into the policeman’s arms as he walked out to help them across.
But Little Suzi and Albert were left standing in the middle of the street when the light changed. The policeman blew his whistle loudly three times and everyone, everywhere stopped in their tracks to see what could be the matter.
A few people on the street and some in their cars—the ones with their windows rolled down—laughed as Suzi’s mommy pushed back from the policeman’s arms, straightened her dress, raised her chin, turned to take her daughter’s hand once again and set off to make it to the other side of the street and away from that embarrassing scene as quickly as possible.
I think he’s gonna ‘rest your mommy! Albert told Suzi. I hope we’re goin’ to jail, ‘cause I never been in one!
But the sweaty policeman simply asked Suzi’s mommy if she were ‘ok’ and then motioned the cars and trucks on through the street crossing. He shook his head, chuckled to himself, and then returned to his post on the corner.
“I sure hope that lady can drive better than she can walk!” the policeman said out loud.
“Well, that was embarrassing!” Suzi’s mommy said as she led her little girl back to the car and put her in the back seat (leaving room for Albert).
And that’s when Little Suzi stood up in the back seat of the car, stuck her little head out the window, and hollered at the policeman: “Look out, mister, my mommy’s drivin’!”
It’s not the ‘noculation that might hurt
When a little girl visits her doctor.
It’s the trip home
That poses risk and danger!