April 21, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

The ITCHIES

By Barbara Robinson

I dedicate this story to my youngest child and all the other little “itchies of the world.

A family vacation and rooms in a cool Appalachian Mountain lodge what a great getaway for all seven of us! We had unloaded our car and had finished a picnic lunch. Now we would start out on a little hike. My husband and two boys in the lead and myself and youngest child bringing up the rear. This was our usual hiking formation, as our family home in Arizona had given us the opportunity for many hiking experiences.

So here we were enjoying the deep greens of the Kentucky forest and the cool wind ideal for hiking. As usual our oldest child had to be reined in by his dad, as he forged ahead at a pace much too speedy for the rest of us. Walking beside me per tradition was Ann, always “the baby,” she did know how to play the role of youngest sibling to the ultimate. Today of course was no exception, as she walked, she also started her usual discourse about all the inequities of the world mainly starting with our family and working out all the way to the president and congress. I realized early on that our family hikes were like a cathartic or psychiatric session for our now kindergartener philosopher. It was often hard to stifle laughs and adult critiques as Ann would rage about one social injustice after another as interpreted by a preschooler. I was not an avid fan of hiking, but Ann’s lectures always seemed to make the time and the distance shorter.

Today was different. I noticed that Ann was lagging behind all of us including myself and her usual discourse on all the recent evils that had befallen her, our family, and the world remained unspoken. I slowed down to keep pace with Ann and watched as she plopped herself down on a log near the path. I looked at her in shock and watched as our eldest children turned around and came back to gather around her.

“Come on Ann, we are almost there, and Dad says we can swim in the pond at the next turn in the trail.” My second eldest son encouraged his sister and offered his hand.

My husband walked up to Ann and encouraged her to take a drink from her thermos.

She drank but did not get up. “I’m very tired, Daddy,” she whined.

My husband, not to be detoured from his goal of finishing the hike and having a swim, took Ann’s hand and they began to trudge back onto the trail with Ann scuffing her shoes as she walked.

I could feel the impending storm between our youngest daughter and her Daddy. Time for a mommy intervention, I quickly walked up beside Ann and asked in a sweet “Mommy’s-little-baby-voice.” “What is wrong sweetheart? You love to swim, and the pool is just a few steps further.

Ann looked up at me while she vigorously rubbed the front of her T-shirt. “Mommy I just want to take a nap and I have all these itchies, on my tummy.”

My sweet little blond hair blue eyed baby pulled her T-Shirt up and my eyes encountered row upon row of angry looking pink fluid filled pustules.

My husband who was standing beside me bent over to examine Ann’s chest and face. “These sure look like chickenpox and she feels hot.”

“One of the kids on the school bus said his sister had gotten chickenpox.” Drue our oldest child popped up in front of us with this news.

“Okay I said,” as I watched my husband pick Ann up, “does anyone else have itchies or feel very tired?”

Thank God no one else in the family indicated a problem yet, although all our kids would end up contacting Ann’s itchies, at this point we had just one viral source.

This presented a problem as we had already checked in at the lodge and our reservations for the seven of us for a week had really been a strain for the budget, but now we had no choice we had to get back to the front desk and check out and hope somehow to get a refund.

The kids were just great with all of this despite the disappointment of losing a fun time and having to pack up all their vacation gear. We just sat Ann in a chair to suck on a popsicle while we explained the situation to the desk clerk. The clerk was hesitant to credit us any refund on our reservation and called the manager.

By this time there was quite a gathering of guests at the reception desk checking in and checking out and we were holding things up. The manager listened to the clerk’s explanation of our situation and developed a somewhat stern look on his face. I could see our vacation money floating away, when my husband, taking advantage of the guest audience and the return of our kids from their packing chores, called Ann over to the counter. He slowly lifted her up and sat her on the counter and asked her to show the nice manager, her itchies. Ann sensing the drama of the situation slowly pulled her shirt up and displayed pink pustules with slimy drippings of a sky-blue popsicle. The crowd around the front desk except of course our family dropped back and I could detect a little gasp here and there. The manager coughed as he eyed this alien intruder sitting on his front desk. He smiled as my husband lifted Ann off the desk. I noticed the clerk heave a sigh of relief and the group of intimidated tourists fall away further from our family group as Ann regained the floor.

Well, we got our vacation money refunded immediately, no questions asked and were given sodas, sandwiches and ice cream for our return drive home. The trip was uneventful with our little princess dictating our stops along the way to purchase calamine lotion and the obligatory sky-blue popsicles. As we unloaded the car including a now sleeping Ann, I noted the start of a pustule on our middle daughter’s neck, and ah well here we go a vacation filled with quarantine, pink lotion, thermometers, gallons of Kool-Aid and the itchies.

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