MY VITAMIN COLLECTION



I was raised by my grandparents. Grandma V., a retired nurse, was a seasoned medical professional ... but a medical professional from the old school. We're not talking shrunken heads or blood-letting, but she was more than a little wary of anything smacking of "modern medicine."

Especially anything advertised on TV.

That's why, instead of Vicks VapoRub, we got mustard poultices. Instead of Cepacol, we got our throats swabbed with iodine. Instead of One A Days, we got cod liver oil. Ad nauseum.

(And I mean that literally.)

I, of course, yearned to be a child of the 60's. And most of my what-makes-a-child-of-the-60's information came from TV: specifically, from TV commercials. And for some reason, for a long time, I fixated on vitamins.

I watched the commercials for One A Day Vitamins, Chocks Vitamins, Flintstones Vitamins ... children in glowing good health, rosy-cheeked, climbing on jungle gyms and frollicking with puppies and laughing a lot ... and I thought, "Gee, that looks good to me." Even at the tender age of ten or so, I was Dealing With Issues, and I decided that maybe what was lacking in my life/personality/family life/life in general was that glow of good health that could only be achieved chemically.

I hesitantly brought the subject up with Grandma a couple of times, but I was always shot down. "There's nothing you can get out of a vitamin pill that you can't get from eating right," was her standard response. And then she would load up my plate with another helping of boiled potatoes and fried hamburger, and that would be the end of it.

But you know how it is. You always want what you can't have.

Whenever I visited other people's houses, there on the kitchen counter would be the big lovely bottle of One A Days, calling me. Tempting me with promises of what could be.

Taunting me.

I should add, here, that running concurrently in our household with *The Vitamin Issue* was *The Hippie Issue* ... or more specifically, *The Hippies-Who-All-Use-Drugs Issue.* Grandma and Grandpa would sit and watch Huntley and Brinkley every night -- riots on college campuses, various rock stars being busted for drug use, etc. -- and make that disapproving "tcch-tcch" noise in the back of their throats. At that point I was not only attempting to be a child of the 60's ... I was also secretly aspiring to be a hippie. And in my small muddled head the distinction between chemicals that are good for you and chemicals that weren't was fuzzy. One day I remarked to Grandma that I hoped to "experiment" with drugs someday (like all good hippies do). I meant it in the most innocently clinical sense -- I was thinking test tubes and science -- but Grandma was horrified.

For a long time after that she wouldn't even give me Bayer Aspirin tablets unless they were chopped up and *cleverly disguised* in a spoonful of raspberry jam.

Eventually the lure of the forbidden vitamin bottle proved to be too much for me. One weekend, when I was spending the night at my best friend Sandra Mecham's house, I filched a couple of One A Days from her kitchen counter. I stashed them into my pocket and snuck them home in my overnight bag.

I didn't actually plan to swallow them. At least, not at first. First I wanted to just ... look at them for awhile. Fondle them a little.

It was an amazing feeling of power.

Pretty soon I was sneaking vitamins out of every kitchen counter bottle I ran across. Soon I had a fairly amazing little collection going. (Aunt Bonnie proved to be a BONANZA. In addition to your standard multi-purpose shit, she also had stuff like Vitamin C and B and A, and the even more exotic "FemTabs," which I'd never seen before.) I kept my vitamin collection wrapped in a handkerchief in the top junk drawer of my dresser, and whenever I was alone I would dump them onto my bed and sort them into piles. Arrange them by color and by shape. Count them. Feel them running through my fingers and onto the chenille daisy bedspread.

This went on for a long time. Pretty soon I'd moved on from stealing vitamins to anything I found in various friends' & relatives' medicine cabinets. Heart pills, blood pressure pills, laxatives, worm pills for the dog ... it didn't matter. I just wanted to add to my collection.

By this point I had completely lost track of which pill came from where, and I was too terrified to ever actually take any of them. But "collecting fever" had hit me in a big way and I couldn't seem to stop.

You can probably guess what happened eventually. Grandma decided to clean my bedroom one afternoon, and she discovered my little cache of "pharmaceuticals." I came home from school that day to find her waiting for me in my bedroom ... with my "collection" spread all over the top of my dresser. It was the singularly most terrifying - and embarrassing - moment of my childhood. She was convinced that I'd become a fifth grade drug dealer.

I lamely tried explaining to her that I just liked the way they .. uhh .. felt in my hands. You can imagine how that went over.

She called both of my parents ... she called my teacher at school ... I was grounded forever (I would probably still be grounded if she were alive to enforce it) ... my lovely collection was flushed without ceremony ...

... and a few days later we had our very own bottle of One A Day Vitamins, which we kept [no, not on the kitchen counter -- are you kidding?] in Grandma's bedroom, where they were judiciously doled out on a daily basis until I was fourteen and moved out of her house.



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