Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I came from a family where both my parents were microbiologists--so they understood germs. My Dad in particular is a huge germaphobe and a bit of a hypochondriac (you know it's true Dad). We were threatened with diseases if we ever touched our lips to a public drinking fountain. He brought along what we called wash n' drys everywhere we went in case we needed to clean our hands (I think this was his solution before the days of hand sanitizer). I learned to loath public toilets and touching the floor in any manner.
Much of this is still in my system. I am always telling the girls to stay off the floor in stores and not touch the bottom of their shoes. I bring hand sanitizer everywhere and often lather it on common objects such as grocery cart handles. But I have loosened up a bit. For instance, I often utilize the ten second rule, but only in my own kitchen where I KNOW what has been on the floor.
The phobia rears its ugly head at odd moments such as the other day when June came running inside. She had just gotten off the bus and she was very animated, "Mom, I found that thing we were looking for." And she holds up this:

If you can't tell what that is, it is a feather; a rather nasty feather. I am sure she just found it on the ground, but in my head I can picture her plucking it off a dead bird. In my household, you never touched dead animals (I guess this seems obvious to many people) but my Dad would strictly warn us away from birds and the like (even the alive ones). They are 'germ carriers' he would voice. Oh...another 'germ carrier' would be the fly. Growing up, you were taking your life in your hands if you ate something a fly had landed on. But back to the story:
June picked up the feather because we had been collecting things to put in the kindergarten soundbox for the letter 'F'. I had been thinking out loud earlier, and I had mentioned a feather but at the time I was thinking feather boa, not diseased feather off the sidewalk. I tried not to be too phobic and I let her put it in the bag with her other 'F' treasures, promising myself that I could clean them all later. She was just so proud of herself for finding it that I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.
The first thing I did when she got home; trashed the feather. And I sanitized my hands on the way back.


Alissa said...

ew! it's not even a pretty feather either! you're such a good mom for even letting her put it in the box. i'd have tossed it.

meganmushrat said...

Dad loved your blog (which I read to him a few seconds after your phone call). I'm sure he's pleased that you have learned so much from him! You have to admit, you didn't learn it from ME, although I am the only microbiologist in the family. Dad was an immunologist. We used to have arguments:
DAD: How can you be a microbiologist and not be aware of all the bacteria around us?
MOM: How can you be an immunologist and not realize that we need to be exposed to things in order to develop immunities?

Bottom line - it's a good thing the two of you were born in a country where hand sanitizer and Wash & Dries are available!

Deanne said...

Sometimes I wish I could be innocent like kids when it comes to germs. Then it wouldn't make me gag to hear them choke on their own bath water! Good find, June. Her teacher would be proud, right?

¡Vieve! said...

I think a little dirt never hurt anyone-I remember making my sister eat dirt when we were little, and she's still around and kicking! :)

K Cazier said...

Okay, Maleen, I am with your dad on this one. 'Germ Carriers' totally gross me out!!! I am a complete germaphobe! But like you I try to restrain myself around my kids. I have NEVER (that I know of anyway) let my kids pick up a nasty feather after I heard the story of ( I think it was Tyler as a boy) putting that feather under his fingernail and having to go to the hopital because of the infection it caused... YUCK!!!

Aubry and Brian Macbean Family said...

Hey my Dad always told us to stay away from birds too. Sometimes it was hard because we always had cats growing up and though we were lucky enough not to get dead mice lying around (at least not by them our dog on the other had would drown them in her water dish) but if they caught a bird we would find whole or part of it sooner or later.