It was a rather long day, and yes I put the boys to bed much earlier than normal because I’d plum run out of patience to deal with them.
‘Mom, what’s malla-rhye-a?’ the Gort suddenly asks. ‘You mean malaria?’ I asked-guessed. ‘Yeah, malla-rhye-a…malaria…whatever.’ Surprisingly, I stand a proverbial ‘snowball’s chance in hell’ of answering this one. Having swallowed bitter quinine a few times in my youth. ‘In some places, like Africa,’ I begin, before realizing I don’t have a clue what malaria actually is, ‘if a mosquito bites you…..then you might get malaria.’
Ta-da – Malaria: in one easy step.
‘Do people die,’ my alarmist-in-training asks. And now I feel cornered because I can see him freaking out next time he gets a mosquito bite; that death is imminent. ‘Yes, some people die,’ I feel compelled to honesty. ‘Little people?’ he asks. ‘Yes,’ I reply because doesn’t the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation do something with malaria or mosquito nets or something?Isn’t it, like, a problem?
‘I’m not little,’ the Hen suddenly announces from his bed. Because people who are four are practically adults, I guess.
‘I’m going to need to check on the computer what malaria really is,’ I finally confess, fearful of misleading the blond boy wonder(s).
‘Can you do it right now?’ he asks with a surprising sense of urgency. Especially since it is Fall. And we live in….Canada.
I head downstairs to my office and consult wikipedia. I’m lost after ‘eukaryotic protists’. So I consult the World Health Organization.
I return to the boys’ bedroom to convey what I’ve learned, as much as my science-averse brain will allow. [My only memories from Honors Biology are that of Mrs. Lightfoot (?) spinning around on the floor, like a bug, and a boy named Charley telling me I have really big feet.]
‘Malaria is caused by mosquitoes that are infected with parasites,’ I try, again.
‘What’s a parasite?’
This might be why people have ipads or iphones.
‘It’s like a bug.’ I guesstimate. ‘Okay, let’s say I’m a mosquito. And I get a parasite [insert hand motion to convey ‘infested with parasite’]. And then I bite you – I suck up your blood and now I’ve given you the parasite. Then you might get malaria.’
‘How will I know?’
Headache and vomiting 10-15 days after the mosquito bite?
‘Will I need to call the hospital?’
‘Yes, if you think you have malaria, you should probably call the hospital. Why are you thinking about malaria, anyway?’
‘Why did you ask me what malaria is,’ I translate.
‘I don’t know. Did I ask you what malaria is?’