By Naomi Serviss
Needles terrified me as a kid.
Anticipating a sharp jab
was worse than its sting.
so much anxiety I hyperventilated.
The phobia haunted me for years,
and my older brother teased me mercilessly.
Often with sharp objects.
Some siblings tease one another
When I was four years old, my mother
ditched her husband
and packed four out of five kids
onto a Greyhound bus from
Rhode Island to Philadelphia.
She had a friend in Elkins Park,
a luxe suburb, and settled there.
My mother’s oldest son had joined the Air Force
after his father kicked him out.
My mother, four kids in tow,
moved from one crummy apartment
Sometimes at night.
Never gave a definitive reason.
I was six when we moved into the first floor
of a nondescript and poorly maintained
carved into apartments.
Railroad tracks steps from the house
separated the haves from the have-nots.
My divorced mother worked for radiologists.
Two older sisters, a brother and I begrudgingly shared the one bedroom.
A daybed in the living room for my mother.
Burnt orange and stained vinyl flooring in the
Noisy driveway gravel outside its window
heralded approaching cars.
Between the cement-footed upstairs-neighbors
and a rarely-home working mother
whose go-to method of self-expression
No one slept well.
One night stands out.
I was startled from a rare deep
sleep in the crowded bedroom.
Something was touching my arm.
My eyes flew open.
My mother’s face loomed grotesquely.
She shushed me.
I noticed she had
something in her right hand.
It was a needle, poised for injection.
I jumped out of bed and ran screaming
into the living room
I slept fitfully, with a night light,
after that trauma.
I was a thumb sucker until I was 10.
My two front teeth became gapped and
My oldest brother called me “Bugs.”
He wasn’t kind.
On the upside, I became resilient,
And eventually kicked my needle phobia
to the curb.
When I was a school kid, required vaccinations were for:
for the common good.
We elementary kids were once pleasantly
surprised to have
a vaccine-inserted sugar cube
doled out by school nurses
in the district’s junior high.
What kid wouldn’t be?
We elementary school kids were bused to
Ogontz Junior High that day.
A vivid memory.
I marveled at the landscaped campus grounds.
The bus lumbered up the windy hill
overlooking the tony town.
Ogontz was the original Cheltenham High
My oldest sister’s graduating class was its last.
When my kids were little and needed
vaccinations, I held them in my lap,
reassuring and distracting them.
It didn’t always work.
If they cried, I cried.
Bottom line: I trusted the science
that produced the vaccines.
Anything to protect my kids and everyone else.
It does take a village!
When the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
were made available,
I couldn’t get jabbed fast enough.
Dr. Fauci was (and is) a trusted
He gives good data and a just-the-facts delivery.
His infectious disease expertise
is the gold standard.
I’m relieved my kids and husband are vaccinated
Boosters should be taken eight months
after your final shot.
During last week’s high school Zoom reunion,
one guy mentioned his upcoming appointment for one.
Way before eight months!
I nearly followed suit,
until reading a Forbes magazine piece.
Consider Forbes’ Bruce Y. Lee’s sage bottom line:
“It is better to stick as close
to the official recommendation
until further notice.
“Again remember, timing is
everything in life.
There can be such a thing
as premature vaccination.”
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com