The very day that Peter Spacek’s chigger cartoon appeared in our paper two weeks ago I got them. “Mucha itcha,” I said at White’s — alternately “Me pican los tobillos” — as I bought Benadryl cream and spray, which barely got me through the night.
Gene Connolly, whom I saw the next morning at Meeting House Lane Medical Care, prescribed Permethrin, something that’s usually used on lawns, I think. “And don’t scratch,” he said. I told him the last time I’d used Permethrin, years ago, had followed hard upon an altruistic cleanup of the neighborhood that I’d undertaken on my own one spring day. I remember feeling quite virtuous until the infernal itching began. I’ve left roadside litter to the Highway Department ever since. “The eagle does not stoop to catch flies,” the Graves family motto has it, but apparently it does stoop to catch tick larvae.
Though, all told, we of this generation can’t complain, a young man of recent acquaintance told me and Mary the other day. In fact, he said, those of us alive here now were inordinately blessed vis-à-vis our predecessors. We had to agree, ticks notwithstanding. When the nurse asked during another recent visit to Meeting House Medical if I’d been depressed of late, I replied that I hadn’t been, but that it wasn’t because things weren’t depressing; I was simply programmed that way. I think there is something to be said for that. At birth, Emily, a pistol, burst upon the scene; her brother, Cebra, who tends toward the cerebral, was beatific. I was noisy.
There’s a bookstore in the Reutershan parking lot that says it’s for optimists, but my offer to bring them some of my “Essays From Eden” to sell drew from the saleswoman a response that would have been characterized as pessimistic were I not an optimist. “I can stand only 10 minutes of depression,” I’ve been heard to say from time to time.
My stepmother, a journalist for much of her career, who a Paris newspaper once described as one of the five tyrants of the fashion world, was optimistic. Perhaps it’s a trait that most journalists share. When questioned, after years of absenting herself from the Catholic Church, as to which particular sins weighed upon her, she said she hadn’t done anything that anyone else hadn’t done.
That, I think, is the way to be.