There’s something about Bradford Pear in full bloom which gives me a feeling in my chest and a lump in my throat.
In three words, the feeling is congestion, coughing and sneezing.
Spring is here, it seems, although I’m still waiting for this particular strip tease by Mother Nature to come to an end -- either with a frigid, tooth chattering cold snap or a jump ahead into the blast furnace which used to be the month of July.
But the blooming of the Bradford Pears always reminds me spring is almost here and with it my annual spring allergies.
Some people make these dainty little hoots and beeps when they sneeze, noises reminiscent of someone stepping on a Chihuahua. Not us. I come from a family of large honking beezers and window rattling sneezers. My mother used to talk about how when she and my uncles were little, they often thought the huge building they were playing in at my grandfather’s school was haunted because they would hear these bizarre honking howls coming from somewhere within the musty old halls. They would later discover it was my grandfather sneezing.
I’m pretty noisy myself when it comes to spring sinus miseries. Before you can say, “Pass the Claritin,” I’ll be honking into tissues so often you won’t know if you’re hearing a head cold or a badly played herald trumpet.
“Big noses run in our family,” my dear old Pappy would say.
“How about a song,” I would reply and honk my beak into a square of toilet paper.
“Know any Glenn Miller tunes,” some family music lover might ask.
And yet, in a way I look forward to these moments -- this year more than ever -- because it means spring is here. That’s nice. In a place like Camden, it’s downright spectacular.
When I was but a whelp, or more specifically, a smart-mouthed, over-imbibing, Marlboro huffing, rebel-without-a-clue frat boy college putz, I loved winter weather. That’s because much of my life’s activities centered on the transport and consumption of mass quantities of cheap adult beverage, and nothing says party in the movie theater like a heavy winter jacket with lots of pockets. Add to the fact five ski slopes were about a two hour drive away from the Sociology class I had to cut to take advantage of mid-week late night bargain lift tickets and you had a situation which would make me useless and my parents apoplectic.
“If you set your academic goals low enough, you can do what you want,” I would explain patiently, but alas my logic fell on deaf ears.
Winter was fun for me. For some reason, I hardly ever caught a winter cold, even when entire dormitories resonated with the phlegmy coughs and piteous wheezing of the damned. The only good thing about those times was the fact cough syrup used to at least make for an interesting afternoon if overly ingested. These days, the manufacturers have removed the fun stuff while at the same time making them taste even worse.
Spring, however, was another matter. Spring was the enemy.
When you’re that age, image is everything and nothing says “loser” with bold-faced, mile-high, gold-and-neon encrusted capital letters like perma-drip sinuses. Even if you think to bring a tissue or two, chances are you’ve long since saturated them. Your sniffling only brings more disgusted attention to yourself. You are truly in a sticky situation, pardon the pun.
The worst thing is when you try to stifle a monstrous, Class 5 Hurricane force sneeze only to find -- once you’ve regained your senses from the ensuing concussion grenade-like explosion inside your eardrums -- you now have this offending wad of gory nastiness now cupped in the palm of your hand and at least 45 more minutes of Max Weber to endure. The best part, of course, is everyone in the room -- including Dr. Snoozeheimer droning on and on in front of you and Buffy the sizzling hot and now utterly horrified cheerleader sitting right next to you -- knows exactly what cards you are holding, so to speak, and none of them need to read your palm to foretell the future of your immediate social life.
In fact, that future will probably consist of moving into a cave somewhere for the next 20 years.
Nowadays, I understand people are taught to sneeze into their elbows, but I can’t imagine this being any less disturbing and offensive. True, you’re not spraying the room like a golf course sprinkler, but you still have the issue of disposal to deal with.
Despite all that, this is planet earth, not paradise, so you have to take the good with the bad. I’ll take the blooming flowers, busy critters, and yellow powder everywhere over bleak cold days, early darkness, and hideous heating bills. I was meant to be warm; that’s why I live in the South, and if I have to learn Glenn Miller tunes with a box of Kleenex, so be it.
I do wish, however, that if the makers of cough medicines insist on making their products taste like what the kids call “straight up butt” then they should at least make them hallucinogenic again.
Alas, this is planet earth, not paradise.