This is the time year when I close the windows and turn on the air filter. I begin days when Jack Frost paints the fields with a layer of white icing. Years before I knew Ragweed was my enemy, I wished for the sweet relief a killing frost would bring. A world of itching filled late summer and early fall, when I was a little girl. The real kind, not the figurative kind that’s good for us all.
My skin itched like crazy. Sometimes, Mom taped popsicle sticks to the inside of my arms, so I had to keep my arms straight. She thought that would keep me from scratching. I scratched the back of my knees, and my ankles. My skin itched from the inside out. I needed to scratch down to the bone; not like the picky itch that a wooly sweater gives, or the sweaty itch that humid heat gives, or even the itch of a dozen mosquito bites. It was an itch from the inside out.
“Stop that scratching,” Mom said. I looked down, and sure enough, there were my fingers right under the hem of my dress or wrinkling up my pant leg,just a-scratching away, without my permission. I knew what it meant to have an itch that couldn’t be scratched. Mom put a thick, white cream on my skin to help the itch go away. Maybe it helped; maybe the itch would have been worse without that metallic smelling cream smeared all over me.
I knew the worst was on its way when my throat started itching. I could get at the top of my throat with the back of my tongue, but that was just the beginning. My eyes itched, the inside of my ears itched, and my nose itched. I pushed my nose up with the palm of my hand and rubbed it around and around in circles just to get some relief. That traitor nose started running and sneezing and sniffling worse than any cold. That’s why Mom sewed all my clothes with pockets: Everywhere I went, I took a pocket full of Kleenex with me. I went to bed with Kleenex stuffed up my nose, because even breathing tickled my nose, making me sneeze and snort. Even the inside of my lungs itched like crazy and my stomach itched so much I lost my appetite.
“Stop rubbing your nose like that or it will grow that way,” Grandma tried to scare me. I laced my fingers behind my back to protect myself from a permanently squished nose. I blew my nose super-honky loud, ’cause that helped scratch the itching way back there where the roots of the nose grow.
At night the Sand Man came and dumped a whole bucket full of sand in my eyes, so by morning my eyes were glued shut. I rubbed the goo out with just one finger, then my eyes just begged for more scratching and that one finger dug in deeper and deeper, like it had a mind of its own. I wished I could take my eyes right out of my head and scratch behind them, they itched so bad. Sometimes the whites of my eyes got all swollen and egg-white looking. That was a tinsy bit fun, ’cause I looked really scary, and there was something about all that swelling, that made my eyes itch a little less.
I shut my eyes tight, and I could hear my whole brain swishing in my ears; a blasting headache was gonna be my guest pretty darned soon. I hated those headaches the most of all. Sometimes, I just laid down, and folded a pillow around my head to block out all the sound and light. I had headaches for weeks on end.
My sister Julie and my brother Johnny both had the same problems, only that had it ten times as bad as me. Even though those two were Little Kids and I was a Big Kid, they had some pretty good advice. Julie told me to slap the itching skin instead of scratching; that numbed up the skin for a while. Johnny showed me how to twist the edge of a Kleenex into a point and stick itinto the corner of my eye and screw it around in circles. That felt good. I showed them how to wrap the pillow around their head to make the headache leave for a little while.
Some days my skin and my eyes and my throat and my nose and my ears and my everything itched all at once and I could hardly breathe. I think even my brain started to itch, ’cause I got really touchy and would cry or fight about, well just about anything that would normally be nothing at all.
When I was no longer a little girl, but a self-conscious teenager, Mom finally convinced Dr. D, our family doctor, I had allergies; then Johnny and Julie, and I went to a special clinic headed by a world-renouwned pediatric allergist, Dr. Cory Cookingham. He always had a gaggle of the cutest interns ever following him around, trying to learn from the best.
“See this ridge on this girl’s nose,” Dr. Cookingham said to those sweet interns. Brut and Irish Sping tickled my nose as all that handsome maleness crowded up close to me and peered at my nose. I could feel my face getting hot; I hoped my breath was fresh. “That’s from rubbing her nose around and around like this.” Dr. Cookingham demonstrated just the motion I used to smush my nose around to get a little relief.
I guessed Grandma was right; my nose did grow that way.
G-Money says I’m cursed with such a good memory; I don’t forget anything. This time, I need no special skill. In spite of great strides in medicine, I’m still itchy from the inside out, still carrying around a pocket full of Kleenex, and I’m pretty sure I’m crankier than normal. Anyways, I sure as heck hope I’m less touchy the rest of the year and you better not challenge me until after Jack Frost has been around.
I love the summer warmth. But, please God, make the itching stop. And if you have a little extra time, tell me why you made Ragweed in the first place. In the meantime, I’m staying inside my HEPA filtered, air-conditioned house, as much as possible, and enjoy the view from the window.