Every summer as child I wore rubber boots. We all wore rubber boots because we were always mucking about in the creek in the wooded valley behind our house. The valley dove steeply under the sheltering limbs of red oak and maple trees, the hemlock and the bristly pine. At the bottom the little silver creek wove its way down toward the harbour and the lake beyond.
The pathway was lined with the flowering trillium, milkweed, odiferous skunk cabbage, and poison ivy. The trillium we treasured. The sticky milkweed was interesting and predictably sticky; we had to test that every summer. Skunk cabbage was great because when you kicked it, it smelled like a skunk. What more could a kid ask? And poison ivy? I was allergic to poison ivy, which was one reason why I wore rubber boots.
The idea was that the rubber boots, which reached all the way up to my knees, would protect me from the annual plague of poison ivy on the bottoms of my feet. Every year I would end up with poison ivy on the bottom of both my feet and I could never figure out why until many years later.
It was late at night and we had just retired for the evening. There was a noise outside. A prowler? I got out of bed, put on a bathrobe, slipped the loafers on my bare feet, grabbed a flashlight, and headed out into the back yard. Standing by the back fence I realized that I was standing in poison ivy. I carefully backed out hoping that I hadn’t brushed against the poison ivy.
A few minutes later I stood in our bedroom. I hung up the bathrobe. Then I slipped off my loafers. First I put the arch of one foot against the heel of the other shoe to leverage it off my foot; then reversing the procedure, I put the arch of the bare foot against the heel of the other loafer and slipped that shoe off. I might as well have walked bare foot in the poison ivy; but now the old riddle was solved. I carefully washed both feet with yellow Fels Naptha Soap and escaped another summer brush with poison ivy.
There are things that we have done in our past that had negative effects that we had neither the experience or the wisdom to understand. One of the advantages of maturing is the gift and grace of understanding. Now, if by accident I walk in the poison ivy, I take great care when I remove my shoes.