LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: The Chapstick Club’s curse | SierraSun.com
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LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: The Chapstick Club’s curse

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

Sickness usually affects someone in my family during the course of a winter. However, several weeks ago, my entire household became ill all at the same time.

We couldn’t remember another time when we had all been sick at the exact same time. Fortunately for us, we were each put on a round of antibiotics, and eventually we recovered.

Even our dog was sick and on antibiotics, although I’d like to think that her ailment was something separate. Then again, you never know. Maybe she personally witnessed that the rest of us were lying around feeling achy and awful, and she decided that she might as well lose her appetite too, meanwhile getting some attention at the vet.

It all started one day with my 9-year-old, who came home from school with a very bad sore throat.

Strep throat made its way into our household, and then it quickly spread from one family member to the next. I didn’t think it was useful to blame anyone in particular for causing our entire family to be sick, and so I reasoned that illness just happens.

Then my daughter told me about the Chapstick Club going on at her school in which she was an active participant.

I was actually surprised that such a nasty virus could have started in my daughter’s classroom considering the extremes that her teacher goes to in an effort to eliminate the spread of disease.

The door to my daughter’s classroom is often propped open to the outside. Her teacher does this periodically to air out the room which can get stuffy during the winter months, as 24 students sit closely together, several of whom may be coughing at any given time. The classroom tends to be so chilly sometimes that I will often keep my coat on when I go in to volunteer.

The students do not sit in rows but at tables, which are formed by pushing four or five desks together to form a group. Each “table” has its own box of tissues, and a container of wet wipes, and the students regularly wipe down their desks with disinfectant. It all appears to be very antiseptic.

The thing the grown-ups didn’t know about was that one of the girls at my daughter’s table had brought in cherry and watermelon-flavored Chapstick, and another girl had brought in the very excellent tasting tangerine and bubble gum Chapstick.

Therefore, my daughter was scouting around the house one evening for all the great flavors that our family might have, so she could bring them in to share with her friends who sit at her table. By the time I heard about all this, there were four girls at the table, each owning and sharing three different flavors of Chapstick. I was quickly able to compute that math to equal four girls, 12 Chapsticks, and at the least, one very sick family here in Truckee.

My daughter’s hunt through our household for more flavors of Chapstick happened about a week after we were all feeling better – a time when the thought of more germs coming into our house caused me some alarm. And so in a flash I heard myself launching into a loud and forceful “There is no way” as I quickly tried to put a halt to the whole escapade.

Then I remembered that I needed to try to calmly explain my reasoning to my surprised child, rather than overreact. The circumstances warranted a fairly big reaction, but a calm one.

It’s a fine line that we parents walk between trying to not overreact to things our children tell us so that they will continue to confide in us, and wanting to let them know just exactly what is or is not OK. Luckily I was able to catch myself, and start over with, “Gee honey, that’s not a very good idea”

It turned out that this Chapstick Club was just another one of those fourth grade girl things. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the boy who sat at their table was not involved, nor interested.

I can’t help but wonder if the other families who also have 9-year-old daughters who are former members of the now-defunct Chapstick Club were also hit hard by strep throat.

Luckily, my 9-year-old and her friends seem to now understand why sharing Chapstick might not be such a smart idea.

Katie Shaffer has lived in

Truckee since 1981.


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