Just the words are enough to provoke dread. Half-remembered stories from childhood about the kid down the street that got into it and had rashes on body parts aplenty, including some best left unmentioned. Whether these tales were true one didn’t question. POISON IVY!
I’ve no doubt that, as we live in a heavily wooded area, poison ivy lurks somewhere around our back and side yards. In fact, I can look at one patch of shaded greenery as I type this with reasonable certainty that it’s the real deal. Leaves of three, let it be, and all that. Google photos seem to match.
Once, we had the Weed Lady out to clear a hill and she mentioned we had a little. So there’s that. But that was 2009.
The point is, for all of its legendary insidiousness, I’ve never broken out. I’ve weed whacked our entire property and, to my knowledge, didn’t inhale ivy vapors or whatever. The dog runs through the aforementioned patch multiple times a day and we as a family don’t “catch it” from her fur.
And I know it’s an oil that reacts to bare skin but still, I’ve pulled weeds around the same areas with my bare hands and thought, maybe it’s snow on the mountain before it turns snowy. I always wash my hands after because... what if?
I’ve had spider bites that may or may not have been from a brown recluse (wounds that later cratered and left a scar). But no rashes. Knock on wood.
My father-in-law the other day pointed to some supposed poison oak. I’ve been yanking that out with my bare hands for years. Another single weed looks like poison sumac. Same thing. Who’s to say?
Every summer I have these thoughts and fears and now I’ve indoctrinated my daughter. Just a few minutes ago I pointed out areas to her that give me worry. Don’t touch that and don’t go around there. I’m teaching her not from some itchy experience but from the potential that maybe she is one of those people for whom poison ivy is a dreaded foe.
Or maybe she, my wife and I are immune to it. I don’t know. But we’ve also never had a house guest in 12 years complain.
If not the infamous poison ivy (or the killer with the hook hand that ends up dangling from the car door handle), what is the childhood story that you’ve passed down?