Autumn in Connecticut remains one of my fondest memories…driving along country roads flanked on either side by trees awash in brilliant oranges, reds, yellows and rusts. My young daughter would often remark at her good fortune, being born in Redding…a rural town surrounded by more commercialized ones like Danbury, Ridgefield, and Westport. I agreed. We were indeed lucky. Folks drove from far and wide to savor what we awoke to…every day. My husband and I still enjoy the seasonal change here in the Pacific Northwest, but the east coast remains the mecca for Mother Nature‘s “changing of the guard.”
One memory that will forever be interlaced with pleasanter ones of Fall foliage is my one and only brush with poison ivy. Actually, it was more like a wholehearted embrace of the menacing vine.
Without a home of her own, my mom would live with my various siblings and me for extended periods of time. Once she spent more than a year with us in Redding, It was from her that I inherited my love of gardening. We enjoyed time outdoors, on our knees, digging in the dirt. We’d often sit on the front porch of our small, 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse admiring our handiwork…flowers blooming…bees, butterflies and birds hovering…to snack on the delicacies spread before them.
The “fly in the ointment,” however, were dead leaves that had accumulated on our property alongside the road. From my mom’s bedroom window, she could see those leaves. For her it was a daily reminder that a passerby could flick a lit cigarette or match out his car window…and woosh!…a brush fire.
My mom’s distress at the thought of a fire, pressed her to try and light one under my butt. Not something I, or my husband wanted to do on the weekends, after commuting and working in NYC all week. We assured her that all property owners blew fallen leaves to the edges of their property, where they were left to decompose. My mom was not swayed. She never let up trying to make her paranoia mine. What finally coerced me to rake and bag the leaves was my mom’s threat to do it herself. Need I say more?
I threw myself wholeheartedly into cleaning up the entire bank of our property that sloped down towards the road. Since it was a warm, summer day, and I was a naive, Hawaiian, I undertook the cleanup in shorts, ti-shirt…and bare hands. Once I got going, I was determined to do a great job in ridding the area of all debris.
And so for hours I raked leaves, scooping up handsful, emptying them into trash bags. Entangled in the leaves were vines. I decided they too needed to go. I proceeded to do battle with all vines that got in my way. At day’s end it felt good to survey all that I’d accomplished. My mom’s smiling approval was the icing on my cupcake.
My happiness was short-lived. A couple of days later my entire body was one giant itch. I didn’t have enough fingers to scratch myself into lasting relief. There wasn’t enough chalomine lotion in the drug store to afford relief either. The worse aspect, if anything could be worse, was having to go to work.
Commuting to and from my job as a paralegal at TWA was nerve-wracking. I wanted to scratch. Sitting in my office all day, I scratched while researching and writing briefs for arbitrations. Spots of pink medicine covered my arms, legs, neck and face. I wasn’t a pretty sight, that’s for sure.
After a long day in NYC, I would return home, jump in the shower and stand under the hottest water I could bear. That numbed my skin, providing the most relief, however temporary. My doctor finally prescribed prednisone. It was a God-send, for it permanently cured my overall itch…from the inside out.
You can imagine my ongoing fear of vines. I don’t touch it unless I am certain what it is…like ivy…nasturtiums…or my favorite, clematis. One introduction to poison ivy was all I needed to know…
…been there…done that…not going to do it again…ever…