Me and my Grandpa Starn.
My Grandpa Starn had a cabin at Mission Springs. Over the front door was a sign that said “Starnville.” I thought that was so cool. Our family went there several times for weekend trips during the summers. We’d gone to the Santa Cruz beach during the day and back to the cabin at night. The cabin was small. We had people sleeping in the bedrooms, in the living room and on the kitchen floor. It was great. I remember the fragrance of that old wood stove. I don’t know what type of wood grandpa burned there but the fragrance was distinct and not what I was used to.
A family, whose last name was Bird, lived in the cabin next door. It was not a vacation home for them. It was their home. The Bird family had three daughters. One of the girls was my age. I can’t remember their names. When I’d get bored at the cabin my dad would laugh and say, “Why don’t you go play with the little Birds next door?” I’d giggle and go. I loved it there.
The girls showed me all the best places to investigate. Down the hill, behind the cabins, was a creek. On the opposite side of the creek was a bicycle path. In the creek were crawdads, and on the hillside was a nest of banana slugs. I thought those banana slugs were funny, they actually looked like bananas lying on the ground.
One afternoon after leaving their cabin I picked a bouquet of some beautiful green and red leaves the girls and I had been admiring earlier. It was some type of shrub growing wild on the hillside. I thought it was beautiful! When I got to the balcony of the cabin I ran to show dad what I’d picked for the kitchen table.
Dad grabbed my arm and held it over the railing. “Drop it,” is all he said. I knew from the look on my dads face I had done something terribly wrong. I dropped it like it was on fire. Dad took me to the kitchen and scrubbed my hands and arms with Ajax and dish soap for a very long time. Next I had to take a bath, a shampoo, and scrub again under my fingernails. My gift for the table turned out to be Poison Oak!
The next day I went to share the story of my dad’s panic attack with the Birds. Mrs. Bird met me at the door and told me her daughter couldn’t come out to play just yet but I could go visit with her while she took a bath. Her daughter was soaking in the bathtub with oatmeal floating all around her. Her face and neck were covered with a thick layer of a pink medicine that was drying and cracking.
My poor friend was a sight! Her eyes shinning through all that medicine and her sitting in a tub of cereal was funny but somehow horrifying at the same time! Her mother laughed at my reaction when I walked in and saw her. She had picked a bouquet too, but she was allergic to the oil on the plants! Mrs. Bird had talked to my dad earlier that morning. They had a good laugh between them about us.
After her bath, we were allowed out to play again. My friend had been rubbed and scrubbed clean. Even so, before she was allowed out she was again smeared with the pink stuff. When dad saw her the first words out of his mouth were, “Egad, what happened to you?” I thought it might make her cry but she laughed and said, “Oh it’s just Poison Oak, I get this all the time.”
A short while later dad came outside with my white shoe polish. He dabbed it all over my face. The more dad put on my face the more my friend laughed. We played the rest of the day painted pink and white.