Tonsillectomy, Age Three by
(30 Stories)

Prompted By First Memory

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“Do you like the smell of onions?”

My tonsils are out A nurse speaks: “Do you want ice cream, or ice chips?”

The face of the doctor is kind

Holding a toilet plunger

I never smell the onions

The plunger covers my face, and I sleep

Awake I am in a crib

At home I use a bed

Mommy and Daddy reach down to hug me

My tonsils are out

A nurse speaks: “Do you want ice cream, or ice chips?”

“Ice cream.”

It’s delicious.

“More ice cream, please.”

“Sorry, Dale. For seconds, we only give ice chips.”

For the rest of my life, I will enjoy eating ice chips—or even whole ice cubes.


Retroflash  (100 words)

Profile photo of Dale Borman Fink Dale Borman Fink
Dale Borman Fink retired in 2020 from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA, where he taught courses related to research methods, early childhood education, special education, and children’s literature. Prior to that he was involved in childcare, after-school care, and support for the families of children with disabilities. Among his books are Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities (2000) Control the Climate, Not the Children: Discipline in School Age Care (1995), and a children’s book, Mr. Silver and Mrs. Gold (1980). In 2018, he edited a volume of his father's recollections, called SHOPKEEPER'S SON.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Ooof! Yes, what an impression! That mask, descending on the face. I fought it, of course, to no avail. Out you go!

  2. Marian says:

    Wow, Dale, great Flash, and to think you still eat ice chips! As one of the rare kids who did not have their tonsils out (had a pediatrician ahead of his time), I can’t relate directly, but I recall that horrid mask when I had oral surgery at age 10–the worst medical experience of my life.

  3. Excellent! But what’s with the onions?
    (I still have my tonsils.)

  4. Wonderful Retroflash Dale.
    Sorry you got no extra ice cream from the nurse, but the hugs from your mother and dad I’m sure were delicious!

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific RetroFlash, Dale; you really got it perfectly. And I, too, loved the toilet plunger reference. It’s just what I’d expect a toddler to think.

    But no ginger ale? I didn’t have my tonsils out, but recall that every kid who did spoke of both ice cream and ginger ale. Go figure.

    Also glad that the ice chips have remained a nice memory for you.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I love this, Dale, but I think they should have let you have seconds on that ice cream. I remember getting mine out at age 10 and being promised lots of ice cream and jello. But no one told me it would hurt.

  7. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great RetroFlash, Dale. I was like Marian; I still have my tonsils, but had your experience a few years later when I had some oral surgery, so I can relate too. And I like ice chips too.

  8. Suzy says:

    That’s quite a first memory! I was 11 when I had my tonsils out, and I recall getting as much ice cream as I wanted. Maybe they have to be more careful with a three-year-old. Could not figure out the toilet plunger until I looked at your second picture. Did you really know what a toilet plunger was at that age?

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    You really spoke to our generation of tonsillectomy victims! I recall the ether mask and the smell, though it wasn’t onions. Also the ice cream–but what a cruel joke. It still hurt like hell to swallow. I had the added pleasure of having my adenoids “grow back” and removed twice, then treatment with radiation to shrink them. That turned out to be a terrible idea but we were getting the latest, greatest thing. Ha ha.

  10. Well done, Dale. The “toilet plunger” is so vivid; I recall it from my own somewhat later tonsillectomy.. But you got screwed. I’ve heard that the surgeon’s promise is supposed to be all the ice cream you can eat. But come to think of it, I don’t remember being promised that; good thing because I couldn’t keep anything down for awhile. And onions? I remember a taste of garlic (yuck at age 6). Thanks for refreshing recollection.

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