Last night I stood in front of a blazing fire, screaming hysterically as I tore my clothes from my body and threw them into the flames. Stripped down to nothing, my in-laws sat back in horror, hands covering their mouths, and watched as I demanded someone in the full crowd check my bare naked body. My husband grabbed my arm, pulled me from the rising flames, and shook me awake.
In my dream, I’d come back from the wooded field behind my in-law’s house covered in ticks. My heart pounded like it was going to come out of my chest, as I reflected upon the imaginary ticks that had crawled up my body and embedded themselves into my skin, possibly paralyzing me for life. Sitting up in our bed, sweaty and breathless, I could still feel them scurrying up my arms and neck. Only, as we’d learned in a recent work seminar, it’s difficult to feel a tick.
“You’ve got to calm down,” the husband assured me. “There are no ticks in our house, on our children, or in the yard.”
Yet, as I’d learned while conducting this seminar for work-another attempt to educate the urban folk- I know he’s wrong. Ticks are on the dog, behind my kid’s ear, on a mouse that snuck into our basement, and on the baseball cleat that Number One just wore into the house. Simply put– there’s no escaping these bloodsuckers.
Did you know there are certain ticks that can make you allergic to red meat? One day you’re eating a hamburger at a picnic enjoying life, the next you’re choking on a steak at a two-star restaurant as your throat swells in an astounding reaction. You’ll think it’s the restaurant, the EMT will blame the spice, and then years later, after you’ve sworn yourself off paprika, salt, and pepper, a random blood test will come back noting the tick infection that’s caused you to eat bland, plain food.
I think of all the trips to my in-laws, the vast field and wooded path that leads to a creek in the woods where the Numbers love to go to. We take several trips down there when we visit. I encourage them to go, to stay longer, to toss rocks, and skip through the field on their way back. Now I’ve come to realize I haven’t encouraged a healthy lifestyle at all. In fact, I’ve been promoting tick infestation and enabling my children, nieces, nephews, and dog to become tick habitats.
At the end of the seminar, participants received a complimentary poster that showed them how to dress when in wooded areas: long sleeve shirts, pants tucked into socks, proper neck covering, and an anti-tick spray sealed onto your clothes. The poster reminds me of the times my children ran through those fields in their bathing suits-their bodies a deliciously exposed target ready for the taking.
During nightly book time with Number Three, the dog often jumps onto the bed and snuggles between us, enjoying the warmth and the story. Now, I’m quick to shoo her off. Her sad eyes greet mine as Number Three questions what the dog did to get in trouble. By the third night I give in, let the dog join us, and trip over words in the story and lose my place as my mind imagines the ticks that are on her body and now on Number Three’s comforter, waiting to dive into his soft, innocent skin the moment I turn off the lights and kiss him goodnight.
“I’ve checked the dog three times. There’s nothing on her,” my husband will say as I tell him my fear. In my head, I’ll note the tick’s absence because it’s on Number Three’s bed. I’ll stop the show the husband and I have settled in to watch and return to Number Three’s room with a flashlight checking his skin. I’ll then proceed to check on Number Two, followed by a trip into the dreaded teenage room to check Number One. I fear they might hate me soon.
A lawn expert has come to the house and trimmed the bottom of the bushes so air makes its way through-a tick preventative guaranteed for success in the seminar. I purchased tick repellant for the dog, and for my humans, and I’ve loaded up on tube socks for summer adventures. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do about the trip to the lake this summer. It seems as if we’re simply trading one trip, away from the noise and commotion of our busy street, and fear of home and car break-ins, for another trip, where an army of bloodthirsty soldiers eagerly awaits our arrival, ready and waiting to rob us of our life source.
Maybe I should cancel the trip, look into tick breeds in Mexico, and consider having the house bombed-just for good measure.