It seems as if the 100-degree weather just barely has left and already, gangs of leaves are leaping from the trees and covering my lawn.
I, however, don’t care if they end up getting knee-deep or if there are enough of them to stuff the Jolly Green Giant’s mattress. I’m not going to rake them.
The incident that caused me to become leaf-phobic and give up raking for life happened about 10 years ago. The weather was nice that day so I decided to be ambitious and go out and rake the lawn...for the first time in about 12 years.
When I, with my trusty cobweb-covered rake in hand, walked out to the yard, I found myself staring at a collection of leaves, twigs and branches so massive, an abandoned car could have been buried underneath there for all I knew. I nearly turned around and headed straight back into the house.
Instead, I told myself I didn’t have to rake everything at once. I could rake just a little each day and not push myself. So I started at the fence, where the leaves were banked so high against it, they resembled the Himalayas.
The raking went pretty smoothly until my rake kept getting hooked on these long, thin, spidery roots. I finally got fed up trying to battle them and went searching for my hedge clippers. Then I viciously snipped every root in the immediate area.
There was this one vine that particularly annoyed me. It seemed about 10 feet long and was thicker than the others. So I took off my garden gloves, bent down and tried to yank it out of the ground. It stubbornly fought me and wouldn’t budge. Determined, I wrapped it around both of my hands and then tugged as hard as I could. When I did, the darned vine snapped off near its base and flew up at me, whipping me in the face and on my left eye. Along with it came a big clump of dirt that also landed in my eye.
I dashed into the house and flushed out my eye with water for at least five minutes, making sure I got out all of the dirt. The incident ultimately put an abrupt end to my enthusiasm for raking. I hung up my rake for the day.
The next morning, I woke up and noticed that something about my face felt weird. For one thing, I couldn't open my left eye. And my cheek felt as if it belonged to a squirrel storing a mouthful of acorns.
I got up and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. The whole left side of my face was red, swollen and covered with huge blisters.
"Ohmigod!" I cried. "I'm hideous!"
Panic flooded through me as I realized that those roots and vines I'd been clipping and yanking the day before must have been poison ivy. My mind raced as I tried to recall everything I'd touched with my ivy-coated hands before I'd washed them. There had been door handles, railings, the gate latch. And even worse, I'd wiped the sweat from my neck and forehead several times while raking.
Essentially, I was doomed.
Two days later, I looked like an alien from the planet Vulgaris. It seemed as if every hour or so, a new crop of blisters would pop up where I least expected them.
My face, which had taken a direct hit from the vine, looked worse and more disfigured with each passing moment. I shoved on a wide-brimmed hat and big sunglasses, and rushed out to the nearest store…to buy an even wider hat and bigger sunglasses.
When my eye got so puffy it looked as if I were smuggling a golf ball under the eyelid, I decided to call an ophthalmologist, just to make certain my eye wasn't in any danger of falling out.
"It's just the eyelid and surrounding tissue that are swollen," he said, "not the eye itself. Technically, it can’t get poison ivy. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a good one-percent hydrocortisone cream to apply to the area."
So I went to the pharmacy, took off my sunglasses and said to the pharmacist, "Can you recommend a good cream for this?"
The look he gave me told me he thought the only solution probably would be to chop off my head at the neck.
"You might want to think about seeing a doctor and getting a prescription for oral prednisone," he said.
Instead, I bought the cream, then headed home and slathered it all over myself. It made my blisters feel even worse, as if someone had taken a blowtorch to them.
"Um, I hate to bring this up," my husband said, staring at my lopsided, one-eyed face the next day. "But don't you think maybe you should see a doctor?"
"Nah, I'll be fine."
Twelve agonizingly itchy and oozing hours later, I was sitting in the urgent-care clinic, begging for intravenous calamine lotion.
The doctor never came near me. In fact, he stood on the other side of the room during our entire interaction and acted as if I were smuggling anthrax in my underwear. Still, I left there with a prescription for prednisone, which was all that mattered.
The worst part about being covered with unsightly blisters, I discovered, was that people had the tendency to back away from me. I also noticed that store clerks suddenly started using only two fingers when they handed my change to me.
Even worse, because the whole poison-ivy incident was starting to get me down, I found myself in desperate need of a comforting hug.
So I headed straight for what I thought would be the welcoming arms of my husband.
"I really need a hug," I said to him, extending my arms and sniffling.
Hesitantly, he approached. His eyes made a quick sweep over my blistered, oozing face, neck and hands. Finally, he decided that giving a squeeze to the area just above my right kneecap probably was safe.
"I need a real hug!" I whined. "You're no help at all! I might as well just go outside and hug a tree!"
With my luck, it probably would have been covered with poison-ivy vines.
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