A Summer with Poison Ivy
I had measles that kept me in the dark, mumps that made my jaws ache, chicken pox not suitable for a chicken, a whooping cough that woke the neighbors, and tonsils that bulged out of my neck, but nothing, nothing was worse than the poison ivy I got that summer.
“It’s hot, let’s go for a swim,” said Dan.
Local pools were not our favorite places because we got bullied. We’d rather a lake or an ocean, but that was not possible and forbidden in mid week with parents working.
“What about parents?”
“They’ll never know. We’ll take our bikes, go for a quick swim, and then come right home.”
“But, it’s far and we’ll need a lunch.”
“Make a baloney sandwich.”
Ahhh, the baloney sandwich, a favorite standby. Two slices of baloney slathered with French’s Mustard, slapped between two slices of Tip Top bread and wrapped in wax paper. A couple of Twinkies for a snack. We were ready and off to a drumming sound in my head, “This may be a mistake.”
There were so many warm summer days that we took for granted. Hot, blue cloudless skies, sewing bees that never stopped droning, quiet neighborhoods, a Nehi soda, a rare small breeze, dust in the sandlot and tar boiling on the rippling roads.” You can fry an egg on the street today.”
The sun exploded and beat down on us as we rode. I looked at the parched grass. Even the speed of The Rocket driving the wind through my shirt was not enough to dry the sweat that poured from the back of my head, under my arms, down my shirt and into my crotch. Yes, a swim in that cool, crisp, clear water would be perfect. And who would know?
My tan swim suit flapped around the handle of my Rocket Royal; an army bag saddled the rear fender, one pocket holding the bag with the Twinkies and a baloney sandwich, the other stuffed with my army canteen and a towel.
Starving when we arrived, we ate our sandwiches and unscrewed the canteens for a drink, just like Army guys. The Twinkies were melted, so I licked them off the paper and scraped them off the thin cardboard with my fingers. They seemed to taste better that way. It was time for the swim, but first we had to change.
“Where do we change?”
“In the woods. No one will see us.”
As I walked to the woods, I looked back at the Rocket, so handsome parked on its kick stand. It was sleek with saddle bags, steamers, fender guards, a fur seat cover…perfect. No way could I leave it on the ground or leaning against a tree.
There were no benches or dressing rooms. We were hiding. Dan, a little heavy, sat on a rock to change. I sat on the grass. Sneakers, socks, pants, shirt and underwear off, I put on my suit and ran to the water. I did the dog paddle. This might have been one of the nicest swim days of the summer. So cool and refreshing. Toward mid afternoon, exhausted, we changed again, mounted the bikes and headed home. My bathing suit flapped in the breeze and dried on the handlebar.
“What did you do today, Edward?” Mom asked.
“Just hung around the corner at Dan’s.” Oops…a lie.
“Did you have fun?”
“Yep.” Not a lie
Late on the next day, my rear started to itch. I could not scratch it enough because it felt good when I did. But it got worse and became painful. The next day, the itch and pain were even worse, and I noticed that the rear of my underpants was wet. I took a look with Mom’s hand mirror and noticed a bunch of weeping little blisters with a lot of red around them.
“Wally, what is something on your skin that itches and has little bubbles that seem to weep?” Wally was a master scout.
“Probably poison ivy. Or poison oak. Why”
“Uhhh, just wondering.” No way was I telling him where the weeping itchy bubbles were or why I had them.
I was done! Cooked, as in “my goose was cooked.” I could not believe that I sat in poison ivy at Twin Rivers! Yes, I sat in it and not on my towel when I changed, never knowing what it was or what it looked like. How could I explain it? I know, I’ll say nothing. But the little blisters got bigger and more painful and wept even more. Now my pants were stained with the yellow thick weep. My Mom noticed. How could she not? She was the one who washed my clothes.
“Where you get this?” I was done. My lie was uncovered, but Mom and Dad were not so angry. I had enough discomfort.
Dad said, “That’s what happens when you disobey.” My lie went unpunished…by them. But I was punished.
There was little to treat poison ivy in those days. I’m not sure we had Calamine Lotion, but if we did, it didn’t matter. Nothing took away the itch, the pain, the blisters or the draining, and nothing got me on my feet. I spent most of the next ten days lying on my side or my stomach, watching TV or reading, sometimes crying for missing the fun my friends were having while my behind was bubbling and blistering with red , raw flesh.
I avoided Grandma’s remedy.
“Ed-a-wood, put a little of-a you pee on-a these weeds. The-a you put-a the weeds with the pee on-a the poison.” She never finished the second part of the problem, “ivy.” Just called it poison and she was right. Nope, it was not a “Grandma’s cure” I would try this time.
I avoided friends with my embarrassment, not sure what was worse…the poison ivy or that it was in a compromising place; the latter I guess. That would have been another fib. I just could not tell anyone I had poison ivy on my ass. I had poison ivy on my ass!
One day, friends, thinking that I might be ill, visited. Mom blew my cover.
“Edward has not been out because he has poison ivy on his rear.”
My shame when my mother told was overwhelming and unacceptable so I screamed at her. I was defenseless, as open as the sores on my rear. I felt more stripped than I already was…humiliated and most certainly punished. I forgot about how cool that water was on that hot summer day.
Boy was it hot!