Pin Cushion Spills its Guts


I was looking at all my old photographs and came across this one. The minute I saw it, I remembered why I took it.

In 1963, relatives from Kansas had been with us for three days. The activity and all that goes with house guests, their two kids and our four had just about worn me out. They hadn’t been gone long when I noticed that my youngest, three-year-old Bobby, had broken out with a rash. I had a feeling it was measles.

Right about now you’re probably saying, “What does this have to do with a pincushion?” Well, I’m getting to that.

While I was getting dressed to take Bobby to the doctor, he was jumping up and down on our bed when he fell off and landed on his wrist. He screamed in pain and couldn’t stop crying and his wrist started to swell. I was already frantic because of his rash and couldn’t find my shoes. I looked under the bed and saw my favorite old ancient pincushion broken open with sawdust and needles all over the bare floor. I was heartsick. The dog must have been playing with it when it split…then the dog split because I couldn’t find her anywhere.

There–that was the pincushion part. But keep reading.

The most important thing  was to get Bobby to Kaiser while protecting his wrist in a sling fashioned from a dish towel. I suspected it was broken…his wrist, not the dishtowel.  I called the doctor. This was my first visit because we were brand new members. The doctor warned me to try and keep Bobby away from other people while getting him to the pediatrics floor because to get there we would be going through obstetrics. Pregnant women must not catch measles. I considered putting my little boy in a bag with a toy to play with so he wouldn’t expose any women who were “with child.” I was a nervous wreck.

Upon arrival at the pediatrics floor we were hustled off to the waiting room to keep my little boy isolated. The doctor examined Bobby and ordered an x-ray which was way downstairs on the first floor. He also warned me again to keep Bobby away from pregnant women and to come right back upstairs as soon as possible.

“As soon as possible” was the only thing that stuck in my mind that was already a little bit messed up.

Down Bobby and I went again down to first floor for the x-ray. I delivered the important request form to the clerk. As soon as she took it, I left with Bobby to get back upstairs fast as the doctor had ordered. Again I kept Bobby away from pregnant women and returned to our little room and waited. My three-year-old was hyper and all over the place. I was losing my mind. I waited some more and the upstairs doctor came in apologizing for how long it was taking, and I waited longer. Then he returned, studying me me with a guarded expression and said, “Mrs. Auchard, did you even have the xray taken?” His expression questioned my sanity

Only then did my senses return.  I said, “Oh my goodness…all I was thinking about was getting back up here as soon as p0ssible so as not to expose pregnant women.”

So, back down to first floor to the x ray department where I got another weird look from the receptionist and then another one from the doctor. I felt like Mrs. Dumbo. I waited for Bobby to have an x-ray of his wrist, went back upstairs to our little room…and waited. Finally, the doctor received the x ray which showed that Bobby’s wrist was not broken but sprained. He also said that yes Bobby had the measles and he wrapped Bobby’s wrist and gave me one last weird look. I imagined that he wondered if Bobby was safe in my custody. He added the same warning: “Avoid pregnant women on your way out.”

By that time Bobby and I were exhausted and made it back home where I got him settled in front of TV. I took two aspirin and  tackled the mess under the bed: my favorite old pincushion that had spilled its guts.

Then I took this picture.

Even if the old, split open pincushion does NOT illustrate this story, I would not have remembered what happened that day without this photograph as a prompt.

A few days after this happened a letter arrived from our relatives in Kansas saying that both of their boys got measles. They wanted us to watch Bobby in case he, too, broke out with a rash. I never confessed that Bobby gave THEM the measles, and with any luck, they will never read this story.




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  • oscar

    I thought sure the Doc would find a needle in his wrist er something.