Tuesday, July 29, 2003

10 ways in which scratching a poison ivy rash is like teenage sex:

1. You know you're not supposed to do it.
2. You really, really want to do it.
3. You've read about all the scary consequences of doing it.
4. You know people who have done it and nothing bad happened to them.
5. You think about doing it every minute of every day.
6. It wakes you up at night.
7. The more you try to put it out of your mind, the more you want it.
8. You scratch just a little bit, and before you know it you get carried away and scratch the entire thing.
9. Nothing has ever felt as good as scratching that itch in the heat of the moment.
10. As soon as you realize what you've done, you instantly regret it.

A quick note to anyone who arrived here through a Google search for "teenage sex." Please go away because you are a pervert.

If you were looking for "poison ivy sex"... well, best of luck with that.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Today's tale: In which The Ivy exacts its revenge.

I've never had poison ivy before. I didn't know how dead serious my Girl Scout leader was when she told me, "Leaves of three, let it be!"

Book the First
The first time my younger brother came over to our newly purchased house, he pointed out a section of the yard and remarked on the nice crop of poison ivy. That can't be poison ivy! I thought. The illustrations of poison ivy plants in my Girl Scout Handbook are very small and leafy. These large stalks are nearly as tall as the trees growing nearby. Besides, little brothers are stupid.

The Ivy narrowed its eyes and waited.

Book the Second
"We ought to do something about those weeds along the fence," said husband.

Book the Third
Wearing nothing more than a tank top and shorts (and a pair of gardening gloves, to be on the safe side), I removed the weeds. It was quite satisfying work, pulling them up by the roots and watching the pile accumulate. When I was done, the fence looked fabulously weed-free and I called over oldest daughter to help me stuff the weeds into yard waste bags.

She whined her way out of it. I gathered up big bunches, and The Ivy clutched and caressed my exposed skin as I carried it across the yard to the bags.

Book the Fourth
"What do you suppose this small, reddish bump on my arm could be?" I asked myself.

I could have sworn I heard the echo of The Ivy's voice answering, "Why, you're looking down the barrel of 3 weeks of misery, my ivy-pulling little friend. And just when you think it's going away, a rash will sprout up somewhere else. You'll never be rid of us!"

I'm never going out in my yard again, never never again. And I've also arranged to have the first layer of my skin surgically removed and replaced with a synthetic material that's impervious to all allergens and irritants.

The End

Thursday, July 24, 2003

This is a comment about nature and how unfortunate it is that it doesn't come packaged in individually sealed wrappers for our convenience and safety.

Daughter and I were out pulling weeds in the yard yesterday, which is a surefire way to eradicate any warm feelings you might have toward grass, plants, and live things in general. After an hour or so of itchy, sweaty work, we decided to go inside for a snack. And on our way inside, we passed one of our trees which has been working on growing plums for the past few months.

"Are those ripe yet?" asked Daughter.

I smiled a condescending mom smile and started to explain that those were yard plums. The kind that grow on trees, not the kind we eat.


While I respect the tree's efforts, it just never occurred to me that these little nuggets of juicy, pulpy goodness were the same sort of things for which I routinely pay around $2.00 per pound at the local grocery. For some reason, the produce in the store is clean. Pre-bagged, priced, and neatly stacked. So far removed from its natural, free-growing state that it seems to have more in common with the boxed cereal in aisle 4 than the potted mums you'd see in the floral department.

Yes, that's right. Plums DO grow on trees. And so do other so-called fruits and vegetables. In the dirt, surrounded by air, and crawled on by bugs. It's from this filthy, sordid past that the produce is plucked, cleaned up to look respectable, and warned never to mention its roots in polite company.

So, feeling foolishly urban and out-of-touch with the fine, fertile planet of my birth, we picked some of the ripe plums, washed them, and sliced them up. (I'll admit, I had to pretend I'd just bought a pound of them at Schnuck's in order to ward off the fear that they would erupt into germy, wormy, sliminess as I cut into each one.) And by Demeter, if they weren't the best darn plums we'd ever tasted.

Then Dad came into the kitchen and exclaimed in horror, "You're not eating the plums from the tree, are you?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Grandma colored her hair black and always wore bright red lipstick even though she rarely got out of bed. Her legs hurt from arthritis. And so her bedroom was the living room, and at family gatherings, holidays, and Sunday visits, her grandchildren would pile onto her bed and watch TV with her, snuggling deep into her soft, Opium-scented grandma-ness.

Above her bed for as long as I can remember there was a picture she'd painted years ago of a forest landscape. "Let's take a walk in the forest," she'd say, and with two fingers as legs, we'd play hide-and-seek behind trees, swim in the stream, and stop to pet a baby deer.

Grandpa kept pigeons and rabbits behind the house. You could follow him out to feed them if you stayed out from underfoot and didn't touch any of the droppings on the cages. Passing the two-liters of diet Pepsi stacked by the back door (Grandpa was diabetic, and I hated diet soda), you'd be met by the strong smell of bird feathers and rabbit food as he pushed open the creaky metal door.

Many years later, I learned that the rabbits weren't exactly pets, and the "alligator stew" Grandpa made didn't exactly have alligator in it.

But on ordinary Sundays, if you were hungry Grandpa would boil you a hot dog. No matter what time of day, and no matter how much your mother objected that you had just eaten.

And if you were bored, Grandma would lead you into the back bedroom, which was stuffy in the summer and cool in the winter. And she would clear off her art table, setting out real artist paper, watercolors, and expensive brushes. If you asked for crayons, you were given pastels or colored pencils. And whatever you created was given an "honest" artistic critique. "Well," said Grandma every time, with her eyebrows drawn into serious consideration. "This is marvelous use of color. Your lines are very clear and your figures have wonderful shape. This is very good work!" It made me giggle with pride every time.

When I was in high school, Grandma gave me a box of her art supplies, explaining that she was old and her legs hurt, and she didn't think she'd use them anymore. I remember feeling annoyed with her. At 16, I was immersed in creating and studying art. Art was everything. You didn't just give your paints away, that was like giving up on living. I refused to take them, but she insisted. So I kept them in the box and refused to use them.

Grandma died Friday. After her funeral, I didn't go to the gravesite. I went home. I got out her box of paints and her brushes. I noticed that a fan brush was stained pale blue from the last painting she'd done – a landscape that now hung in the hall of my parent's house. I decided to paint the girls' names on their bedroom doors surrounded by flowers and other girly things.

Four hours into the project, it occurred to me that I could have spent that afternoon doing anything I wanted. And instead of painting in my new studio, or playing the piano, or journaling, or doing anything for myself, I wanted to do something nice for my kids. I wanted to make them smile, even for an instant. That's the reasoning, I suppose, behind why I am in possession of Grandma's paints in the first place.