October 8-10, 1970
Mary’s due date, October 7, had come and gone without a baby. Though she was realistic, I wondered if something might be wrong. “Nothing to worry about,” she said. “In a week or two we’ll be holding him or her in our arms.” I decided to take her word for it, as an experienced nurse.
Meanwhile life continued for Nate and me as he poured himself into the last semester of law school and I played with 5-year-olds all day. In the month or so since school began, I’d made two new friends, Lynn and Barbara — both teachers. Once in a while we began seeing each other outside of school hours.
Lynn was a student-wife like me, living in Champaign with her new husband, and Barbara lived in Danville with hers. When our first PTA evening of the year came on October 8, Barbara invited both Lynn and I to her home after school – so we wouldn’t have to drive our 80 miles twice in one day.
The three of us put our feet up for a while and shared dinner at McDonald’s before returning to school for the long evening with parents. By the time I pulled in at home, it was almost 11:00 PM — but walking in to Nate’s hugs and kisses was the best possible end to a long day.
That night, however, I had trouble sleeping. My hands, face, and neck began to itch something fierce, and in the light of day I saw why. There were little dots everywhere, thousands of them, and each one had a white center. It was the strangest rash I’d ever seen.
Nate was concerned. “Are you allergic to anything?”
“Not that I know of,” I said.
“I think we better see a doctor,” he said. “And you probably shouldn’t go to school, since it might be contagious.”
“Well,” I said, “we did go to Allerton Park and there are woods there, but we didn’t really go into them.”
“Did you pick any plants while you were there?” And of course we had.
Unbeknownst to us, the sumac leaves and cones we’d collected were famous for causing rashes, and I had fooled around with them most of the day. The doctor explained. “Sumac poisoning is like poison oak or poison ivy but actually can be even worse.
The leaves, cones, roots… all of it has an oily resin on it that irritates skin. Once you touch it, anyplace else you touch with the resin still on your fingers can get ‘poisoned’ too. That’s why it’s on your face and forearms.”
He gave me a salve to coat the rash and said I should be looking better in a few days. That worked well with the long Columbus Day weekend just ahead.
Though I had to take a sick day, I felt just fine, so I talked Nate into a quick study break…
…at Allerton Park.
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health.” (3 John 1:2)