I woke up. My mother was looking down at me. She had a handkerchief covering her mouth. Then I noticed the circle of ladies also looking down at me with their mouths and noses covered. I could not see all of their faces but their eyes looked worried. I started coughing and I could not stop. I thought I was going to break a rib from coughing so hard. I started noticing the fever. My body was sweating all over.
“You have the whooping cough mijo. Children all over town are getting it.” My mama told me.
The nearest doctor was sixty miles away in Yuma. That meant sending somebody over there and that took a week. Then, it meant, talking to the doctor to come all this way and that would be another week to travel back.
At that time whooping cough was often a fatal disease especially for children and many did not survive. There were no vaccines against it. I was the only one in the family who caught it. Mama kept the rest of the family away from me.
I remember well, one of the ladies that was there when I woke up was Doña Tula. She was that Mayo lady. I don’t know how my mama or anybody else understood her since she only knew her native language, and it was not Spanish. She told my mom to make me drink this tea she made. It looked like urine and even smelled it. I saw things floating in that bowl like wood chips and leaves and blades of grass. It smelled like something I did not want to have inside of me. You know how mamas are, I drank it down. I was too sick to care what it tasted like.
Doña Tula lit up a cigar started blowing smoke around me. She was saying the words I did not understand. It was like she was talking at me and not to me. Then she brought out an egg. She kept saying her words and moved the egg close to my body then she moved it around. When she finished saying the words he put the egg underneath my bed in a bowl of water.
I liked Doña Tula right off, since that first day I met her. She treated me kindly even though I did not understand anything she said to me. It must have been that way with the other ladies. She was always there when the ladies gathered together.
She was small, the size of a child. Her hair was black with braids on both sides of her head. She always wore a black blouse and a long black skirt. One more thing I remember besides her kind face, she never wore shoes.
I guess I have Doña Tula to thank for my recovery. Eventually I did get better. I know it made my mama feel better to see me running around again, but I had that feeling that she was waiting for the next bad thing to happen.