Don’t Scratch It… by JoAnn

A sign that says caution poison ivy

Have you ever had an itch, a physical itch that is, and could not scratch it? If you’ve ever had a mosquito bite, then you know how irritating an itch can be. Now multiply that itchiness by ten. Now you will get the feel of the story I am about to share.

When I was a little girl, my older sister and I spent the majority of our playtime outdoors. We loved playing in the acres and woods surrounding our home. It was much cooler in the woods during the summer than anywhere else. So many beautiful old trees gave us the shade we craved. We would pretend to be on an expedition, searching the woods for something we had never seen before or lost treasure. One year I found much more than I bargained for. I found Poison Ivy.

I must have been around six years old. I’m sure my parents had warned me about this evil plant, but somehow I had walked through it unknowingly. My sister had missed it because she was fine. I, on the other hand, broke out in the most horrific red rash from my chest down. I remember my mother undressing me and gasping at how bad my skin looked. I didn’t care how it looked; I worried more about the awful ITCH!

The itch from H, E, double hockey sticks is how I remember it. Being a young kid, things always seem much worse than they are, but I really do think that itch was as bad as it felt. My Mama covered me in that pink lotion that is supposed to give relief. It felt good while she carefully put it on with soft cotton balls. Being careful to dab and not rub, as to spread the poison. But as soon as the pink, chalky liquid dried, the itching came right back. All I could think of was how much I wanted to scratch every inch of my body from the chest down.

My mother was adamant, DO NOT SCRATCH! I remember thinking that I had to do as my Mama said. She always knew best, and I always tried to mind her. But this was ridiculous. The discomfort was so intense it was making me cry. Surely Mama didn’t understand the severity of what I was feeling.

I realized years later that my mother was not trying to make me feel worse but was attempting to keep me from making the rash spread. The look on her face told me that she felt awful for me. It hurt her that she could do nothing to soothe my pain and give me relief.

After suffering for several days, with no relief to be found, I heard Mama talking to one of my aunts on the phone. She often called on her sisters for advice when one of her children was sick. They were all older than her and had already experienced much with their own kids. This aunt gave her a recipe for a concoction to be used as a wash for my rash. She told her that it would “kill” the poison. I remember the recipe called for something called Sulfur powder. It also called for apple cider vinegar. Mama sent Daddy to the store for the Sulfur powder right away.

Mama undressed me and stood me in the bathtub. The concoction smelled terrible. I was frightened. Needless to say, when that Sulfur and vinegar hit my skin, the itching was instantly gone. It was, however, replaced with the feeling that I was literally on fire!

I look back now and think, “my poor mama .”I can only imagine, now that I’ve been a mother too, how much it hurt her to see me in so much discomfort. At the time, I felt as though I was being tortured. I was standing still in that bathtub as what felt like hot lava was being poured over my body. But guess what? The stinky potion worked! It dried up my rash, and I no longer itched.

I was one cautious kid from then on when outdoors. I didn’t touch any weeds of any kind. And my daddy felt so bad for what I went through that he went into the woods searching for Poison Ivy and Poison Oak and eradicated it! I’m sure that was no small feat, but I had a very good daddy. And Mama too, that’s for sure.