I hoped for the best when I woke up with that icky sensation of postnasal drip. It’s winter. We burn wood. The air in the house is dry. I have allergies.

Unfortunately, my husband, Paul, had been hacking for three days.

Eventually, I had to face reality: I probably had a cold.

For the first time in five years.

“No!” I wanted to shout. “Say it ain’t so!”

As it turned out, my affliction — whatever it might have been — was mild. My throat was fine after day one. My nose ran the next day. Then, I coughed for a third day. After that, it was just a drib of this, a drab of that.

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During the siege of the Little Cold, I would awake and tell myself to take it easy. Maybe I would even stay in my housecoat all day, which I only do if I am officially ill. But after I’d taken a couple of Tylenol, I felt well enough to go about my business.

Still, I was aggrieved. I don’t like being sick. I go to great lengths to avoid being sick. What the heck happened?

I know I must have gotten my cold from Paul. I wear a mask while shopping, and I hadn’t done anything else indoors in public for weeks during this interminable winter.

Paul, who has asthma, is even more adamant than I about masking up. However, he had been inside in close contact with unmasked people (he had his on) in an unavoidable situation. This is the only possible explanation for his cold, which I find scary to think about.

Previously, the only true connection I had ever made between source and sickness occurred in the late 1990s. I had gone to the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, and as I meandered down an aisle of stabled cows, I passed a teenager who sneezed. Loudly and messily. I believe I felt a droplet hit me, but that may just be fanciful retrospection.

I soon developed a monster of a cold and, as result, had to miss a wedding.

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I hate missing out on things. I hate sitting around doing nothing. I have a great need to feel productive. This is why I try not to get sick.

That was the only bright spot of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wore my mask and didn’t get sick with anything. But, I must say, my run of good health had begun a couple of years before, and was the result of two cases of flu — or flu-like diseases — 24 years apart.

When I began working at a school library in 1990, I did not get a flu shot. I was in my 30s and still fancy-free, I guess. So there I was, with virtually no resistance to a massive amount of kid germs. Disaster waiting to happen. I got the flu.

It was a bad case. Luckily, it happened over Christmas vacation, when my mother was visiting and she could take care of me. I slept on a cot in a spare room and reread Agatha Christie novels. I had no energy for anything else.

You can bet I got the flu shot every year after that.

And I was good until 2014, when I developed what I thought was the flu, but which did not test as the flu, or as Lyme disease, for that matter. Once again, I was flat-out sick: Feverish in the morning and suffering horrible chills in the afternoon. I lost 10 pounds and missed almost two weeks of work. Looking back, I think it may have been a type of coronavirus.

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But does it matter? I survived, but vowed to improve my immune system. I started eating a small mandarin orange as dessert every day at lunchtime.

In recent years, Paul and I both avoided the siege of the common cold until late January of this year. Maybe it was the vitamin C. Maybe it was the power of positive thinking.

We are now drinking orange juice every morning and sometimes having mandarins at lunchtime. We’re still getting our flu shots, of course, and are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

I cannot think of anything else I can do, since even hibernating didn’t help me avoid the Little Cold.

Oh, I suppose it was inevitable. After three years of the pandemic, I was like a newbie school librarian again, a moving target for viruses. I know I should be grateful it wasn’t worse.

But even little colds can cause lingering problems. Right now, if I laugh too much, I break into a dry cough. It’s very annoying.

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I realize my aversion to illness may reflect unresolved control issues. I will say that during my flu and virus episodes I did just give up and let myself be sick until I recovered.

With the Little Cold, on my worst day, when I went through half a box of tissues, I did decide to try thinking happy thoughts. I raspily belted out a song — “Make Your Own Kind of Music” — and told the universe I would accept any vile, debilitating junk she wanted to send my way.

I would gracefully hear any messages my body was trying to tell me.

Then, I popped a couple of Tylenols, ate a mandarin and went about my business.

I really hate being sick.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]


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