Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Albert

It was a hot summer afternoon. My mother took us to the schoolyard at Woodland Elementary and she stood in a long line of other mothers (there may have been fathers there, I was too young to remember that now). She stood for hours in the hot Tennessee sun, and we - my brothers and sisters and all the other mothers' kids - ran and played in the school playground. I didn't really understand why we were there; I did know that my mother, all the mothers, were in the grip of some emotion I couldn't understand. They weren't afraid, though - just the opposite: happy, keyed up, talking and laughing and not caring about the heat or the length of the line or long wait. That's really what I remember: that line of women, waiting with relief and joy.

Eventually my mother got to the head of the line, and the five of us kids each got a sugar cube. It was that simple.

I never knew anyone who caught polio. I knew a few who had caught it before I was born, but it was a word to me, not a terror.

Albert Sabin was born today, in BiaƂystok, then in Russia but now in Poland, in 1906. Along with Jonas Salk, he changed the world.

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