I was a Campfire Girl. I know what poison ivy looks like. I do. I learned the whole “leaves of three, don’t wipe with me,” or however that little ditty went. And I can easily pick it out of a lineup. But as I have never been allergic to the stuff, poison ivy lore has always been a purely academic pursuit. When I met my husband, he was grateful for my knowledge because he is so severely allergic to poison ivy that he has been close to hospitalization a time or two. Smug in my immunity, I have always attributed his unfortunate susceptibility to a defect in his character. But not anymore.
Yeah. That’s my leg. Apparently it’s possible to spend forty years blessedly immune to the itchy stuff and suddenly develop an allergy. May I go ahead and say that life’s not fair?
I went to my mom’s last week to dig up some rose of Sharon (Rosasharn, for all you Steinbeck fans). It grows as a weed in her yard I got a little greedy for some of the larger plants, and I ended up digging around in an overgrown drainage ditch. I saw the poison ivy. Of course, I did. I avoided it, mostly. And I made an effort to wash off any of the oils I might have come into contact with.
I was actually amused four days later when the first little bumps popped up on my knee. It was less funny when more appeared down my entire leg. And I quit laughing completely when they started to itch. And itch. And oh, sweet mother, itch some more. And now I wonder why I am being punished. Whatever I did to deserve it must have been really bad.
It doesn’t make sense. It has been a week, and the rash is still spreading. From an evolutionary standpoint, how does an extremely delayed reaction help the plant survive? It’s not like a possum or raccoon or other adorable woodland creature would remember where it was a week ago. They can’t seem to remember where the roads are. Which leads me to conclude that this particular adaptation isn’t about defense. It’s about revenge. Revenge for some imagined slight. Like the girl who sits behind the quarterback all year in chemistry and later burns his house down because he never said hello to her. Poison ivy is nature’s hate crime.
The good news is, I will recover. I think I have handled this sudden outbreak really well, considering. I have ordered sandpaper bed sheets for my bed, and I am training the cats to hit the good spots. But I really wish I hadn’t cut my fingernails.