In the deep South we grow up romanticizing the less than delectable circumstance of which we are presented. Our words are chosen carefully when speaking of matters steeped in discomfort or disdain. Any self proclaimed southern Shakespeare will agree, a rose by any other name is, of course, a weed.
Anything not shiny and without absence of prior use is obviously vintage, an argument is always a discussion and a farm is more aptly named a plantation. It is highly unusual for an undesirable event, circumstance and/or object to be plainly named; however, even Southerners have a limit. Like an unwelcome storm, an unwanted lecture or an unswept front porch, Chiggers are just Chiggers. Unlike their cousin the no-see-um, Chiggers are void of any poetic justice. We don't bother dressing up their title or dressing down their menace. Chiggers are an unfortunate reality to an otherwise enchanting existence.
As a Southerner it is understood not all ordinary occurrences are possible, such as a quick trip to the local grocery store or a summer without an itch. Making allowance for specific discomforts in exchange for certain delight is our specialty. The summer's first sunburn is seen almost as a right of passage for a culture of tanned, toned and tastefully exposed skin. Small talk, regardless of how mind-numbingly mundane, is a small price to pay for keeping ones social standing and avoiding the feared fall from acceptable social graces. Chiggers are our equalizer with the rest of the world. How else would the south keep her towns so beautifully small? If our summers were without Chiggers we would be without balance for all the blessings blindly bestowed below the Mason Dixon.
Akin to parking tickets and bad hair days, it was simply my turn. Enjoying the fruits of my laboring actuality, I soaked up the sun and the sweetness that is slow southern afternoons. Cautiously abiding by all the summer rules, my guard was down and my sleeves were up. Frolicking from flowerbed to flowerbed, fence to friendly fence paying no mind to the evil that lurks. Confidently I applied sunscreen, fervently I hydrated and with decided dedication I broke in this year's flip flop. The trifecta of summer preparations seemed complete. Pride cometh before the fall, and Chiggers before the itch. Less than 24 hours my body had become a battlefield of bumps burdened by an unbearable itch. Concerned and confused, I googled it. How could I have been so naive? I had been viciously attacked by the bane of my southern existence.
Logic fell victim as quickly as appropriate clothing immediately followed by an onslaught of home remedies that although had no scientific grounds, seemed awfully attractive when compared to the alternative. Nail polish, vinegar, bleach and an obscene amount of Epsom salt, did nothing but make me a colorful, mobile, disinfected being with a ravenous itch. Wallowing in a calamine haze of self pity and summer loathing, I did what any proud Southerner would do. We are a strong, defiant, capable population that historically refuses to fall prey to even the most formidable of adversary. Facing my reality, I put aside the Benedryl and I did what needed to be done.
With eyes focused straight ahead, doubts comfortably set aside and leaving a wake of collapsed clothing behind me, I jumped in the Morgan River. Appropriate is a subjective term. Could have been the healing waters, the liberating dip in the skinny or maybe the less than warm temperatures of the depths of despair, but a few laps and some strategically placed pluff mud afforded more relief than any pharmaceutical could employ. Our comfort and our chaos comes from within. We have all that we need to rise above all that we have that bring us down. It is in our blood, in our up bringing and in our rivers to heal all that hides in our midst. Triumphant yet unattractive was my rise from the waters. My pride and my itch were left in the salty surrender. God Bless the South.