Partial list of things I am allergic to:
· Pith – all, orange in particular
· Mousse – all, chocolate in particular
· Caterpillars – Fuzzy
· Dust – all
· Pollen – all, ragweed in particular
On my daughter’s initial pediatric visit, my mother asked the doctor if she believed in allergic-child syndrome. After an almost imperceptible pause, the doctor responded in the affirmative. Satisfied, my mother later stated that she approved the doctor for this. She stressed the importance of this and held it is difficult indeed to find a doctor of this caliber. This is undoubtedly due, at least in part, to the syndrome’s lack of existence – that and a shortage of doctors inclined to reinforce delusions. It is a mystery where she heard it, but she insisted I had it. I had suffered a few incidents of bronchitis, and it was determined to be allergies.
The orange pith and chocolate mousse “allergies” had similar origins though they were years apart. We children all consumed the same foods on these two occasions, and we all evacuated our stomachs; ergo, the food or rather the whole class of foods was toxic for us. We were found to be hypersensitive to all mousse and the pith from all citrus fruits. Oranges, tangerines, tangelos, clementines, mandarins, ugli fruits, grapefruits, and even kumquats were to be peeled meticulously to remove all traces of the white strings. We never had access, or even knowledge of most of these, so it concerned only the antagonistic orange. It had not occurred to my mother that we had acquired the stomach flu. That was the probable case as we have all had mousse since then, tentatively and in small amounts at first with no ill effects.
Never did we contract a cold or the flu. When someone proposed we had, my mother would relay a message she had received from another high-caliber doctor when I was small. He may have conceived of my special syndrome. The doctor could not resolve whether his own presenting illness was infectious or allergenic. If this esteemed physician could not distinguish between the effects of a virus, bacteria, and pollen, how could we hope to?
I cannot explain the caterpillar “allergy” as there were no adverse reactions with which to begin. Upon coming home keen to show my mother a caterpillar crawling happily or in terror on my arm (it is difficult to discern these things of course), she promptly informed me of my allergy to caterpillars. That spring, I recall the caterpillar population per acre reached plague levels, and I was angst-ridden for what that meant for my already unstable probabilities of childhood survival.
The caterpillars base-jumped from the trees and failed spectacularly to avoid traffic. The trauma of stepping over the trodden ones on the way to the bus stop was overwhelming as the more unfortunate children counted them amongst their closer acquaintances.
We assisted many in crossing the road and elevated them into the surrounding foliage. I used leaves to avoid contact and retired late in the night contemplating the epic journey they embarked on to find their families again. Only later, when I began furtively picking up the great woolly ones, did I know for certain that direct contact did not necessitate an EpiPen.
On the matter of my allergy to dust – if sneezing at dust is the singular symptom of a dust allergy, I may not be unique in this regard.
We were all deathly allergic to pollen. When the pollen count was high and we could see the clouds of yellow coming to rest on the hoods of cars and the back porch, my mother kept us indoors. She once stopped on the highway and filled a black trash bag with ragweed. She wanted the entire genus exterminated. They would have been gathered together in a pyre and burned if she had her way. She wasn’t the all-God’s-creatures-are-beautiful type of religious.
We consumed allergy medicine year-round. All four of us took from the same prescription bottle – even as I was the only one diagnosed as perpetually allergic. The pills were a speckled light brown, as though cardboard pulp was blended with sawdust and pressed into shape. For my little brother, we crushed and dissolved them in reconstituted apple juice. A three-quarter inch pill is difficult to ingest when you are four. As an adult, I doubt it was anything but fiber – a placebo. It is important to know that the pills had no effects besides possibly warding off constipation.
On a recent and long overdue checkup, my mother requested Prozac from the physician. This was and still is her go-to medication when allergy pills and the seventeen gel-capsule supplements were not having enough of the desired effects. The doctor consented, and as he was penning the prescription, my mother asked if it was similarly suitable for treating shoulder pain. The doctor readily confirmed that shoulder pain did indeed respond to Prozac. Of course.
If I were the doctor, I would have said the same. Reminiscent of the allergy pills and the creation and acceptance of allergic-child syndrome, it was a get-her-out-of-my-office-free card of sorts. And I’m contented to report that here too there have been no adverse reactions.