Iowa, you rascal!
My heart was gripped with fear the other day when I woke up with a scratchy throat and a sniffle. As of tomorrow, I will have been gone from my home for two full weeks — impossible, all the things that I have done since leaving* — and to falter in the homestretch with a cold (or something worse) is not an option.
But then I sneezed nine times in a row and I realized with a rueful look to no one at all: allergies.
I don’t have seasonal allergies anymore, for the most part. I have lived a city since 2001 and in a city, the beauty of nature is stamped out and destroyed by the fumes of cars, the steam that rises from the subway, and the crushed glass of millions of shattered dreams that carpets the cold, hard cement. Pollen doesn’t stand a chance and that’s been fine by me for years.
Because when my sisters and I were kids, good grief did we suffer. Ragweed is Iowa’s kudzu: stand still for a moment and you will be covered in microscopic beads of death. The wretched stuff — which doesn’t even have the class to originate in a lovely flower but in a weed — would snake its way into our mucous membranes and ruin us and this always happened when school started for the year. My nerdy sisters and I would be so excited for school and then we’d remember that we were social pariahs who had to carry a box of Kleenex with us at all times. Really, we all had boxes of Kleenex that we carried with us to all our classes or put in our desks.
Itchy. Runny. Sneezy. You could’ve called us by those names and we would’ve answered you. My sister Rebecca actually wadded up little wicks of Kleenex to stick up her nostrils. She didn’t do that at school but the moment she got home, up the nose they went to staunch the flow. (She still uses that method when she has a runny nose for whatever reason.) We were miserable. And I try to ignore the nagging resentment I have that no one thought to take us girls to a freaking allergist or at least try some weird home remedy that might relieve our pain. I can still remember the raw, stinging feeling when I’d blow my nose for the 10,000th time, tissue on red, raw skin and then, insultingly, a sneeze attack.
Allergies, you can flirt with me. Go ahead. I’m heading home tomorrow and I’ll return to Washington where ragweed ain’t even a thing. I’m not allergic to cherry blossoms, neither. Take that.
*Filmed 27 episodes of Quilty, performed poetry in front of lots of people, filmed 13 episodes of Love of Quilting, saw Yuri. Went on a date. Wrote things. Played rope toy with Mom’s dog, Scrabble.