Parenting is the proverbial slippery slope. One wrong step and your greatest accomplishment could grow up to be your worst nightmare.
As I stood in the bathroom wearing only boxers while clenching a tiny glass bottle of Chigger-B-Gone, it came to mind that I could be on the edge of such an abyss.
My body was covered in itchy blisters — the worst of which was in a nether region just out of reach of my medicated Q-tip — caused by tiny bugs burrowing under my skin.
The bite wasn’t exactly on my butt. More like my lower back. But through the eyes of an 8-year-old girl, that line of demarcation is especially narrow.
I worried that asking my daughter to apply a stinging salve to her daddy’s posterior could be the catalyst for a series of poor life choices.
"So how’d you end up a working the midnight shift at IHOP on Christmas Eve?"
"Well, there was this one time my dad had chiggers …"
It’s good to be a gardener … most of the time.
The chiggers undoubtedly came from an incredibly cheap load of pine straw. It’s because of those nasty critters that I was standing at the consultation window at the CVS pharmacy, whispering to the lab-coated lady behind the counter.
I felt like a teenager in an ’80s movie, asking the kindly druggist for prophylactics, fearing someone would overhear and tell my mom.
"I’ve got chiggers," I told the woman, who might have been old enough to buy beer. "What can I do?"
"Well," she answered straight-faced, "when I was a kid, we just put nail polish on them. That way they suffocate, and the bug is forced to push its way out from the blister."
Gross. As if the itching wasn’t bad enough, now I had that image in my head.
"Yeah, me too," I said. "Only there are a few places where I don’t think I should put fingernail polish."
"Oh … OH!!!" she answered.
And thus I bought Chigger-B-Gone. Or maybe it was Chigger Away. It was something very midnight-infomercial-sounding.
It wasn’t the only time my weekend yard activities left me embarrassed in front of strangers.
Sunday, I noticed the air conditioner wasn’t working. I left a message with the rental agency, and on Monday morning the repair guys came out.
It took them about five minutes to find the power line I’d cut while planting gardenias.
That wire fed electricity to the shed in the backyard, and when I whacked it in half, it tripped the breaker and killed the air conditioner.
"Nothing to it," said the repairman. "It could happen to anyone. These old houses have stuff buried all over the place."
Afterward, I shared the man’s kind words with my daughter, who, being home sick from school, was less than accommodating when it came to my feelings.
"Yeah, he just said that to be nice," she said, sipping on a Sprite. "Maybe you should give up gardening."
Never. That’s the one itch I can scratch.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.