Before I moved out here into the wilds in 2006, my husband asked if I was allergic to cedar. I told him I didn’t think so. The only cedar trees with which I was familiar were the two, tall, roly poly trees that stood at opposite ends at the front of my childhood home in the city. We grew up calling them our Christmas trees, but since they were so dense, we never played with them like we did the oaks or the pecans. Those trees were easier to climb, so we stayed away from the decorative cedars though I never found they added much to the aesthetics of our home.
As for cedar pollen, I told HB I never recalled any in the fifteen years we lived in that house. He warned me that the cedar pollen to which he was referring was from a more aggressive tree – the Ashe juniper or mountain cedar of the Texas Hill Country. It would waft into our area in the winter months and no one was immune.
I poohpoohed him and said if it hadn’t affected me in fifty-plus years, it probably wasn’t going to now.
Fast forward to January 2014. HB and I were meeting my son, his fiancé, and her family on a hilltop to look at a wedding venue. We hiked through a campground toward a beautiful gazebo that teetered on the edge of a hillside that overlooked the Canyon Lake valley below. It would make for a beautiful wedding. The vista was breathtaking, and I did. I took a breath, one that I would regret for the remainder of the day, night, and the following day.
The other two parties were running late, so HB and I stood among the cedars waiting for them to show, inhaling more than our fair share of yellow pollen that rained and covered everything around us. First my eyes started to itch, and then my eyes. HB warned me not to rub my eyes, but it was like I had inhaled a million red ants and poured jalapeno juice into my sockets. I wanted to claw at my face.
I usually carry tissues and OTC meds in my purse but not that day. I ransacked my car, but I had nothing to help myself, so I resorted to wiping my watery eyes and runny nose with my shirt sleeves. I wailed and thrashed about in my hell, my yellow pollen, mountain cedar hell.
By the time the future in-laws showed up along with my son and his bride-to-be, I was leaking everywhere, miserable, and grumpy. I made a terrible first impression on the future in-laws, but I was beyond caring about anything other than a Zyrtec and a tissue. I stayed in the car while HB went with them to see the gazebo among the CEDARS, overlooking a valley covered solidly in more blankety-blank Cedars.
I was no better when they returned about an eternity later with their checklists and questions about where else they wanted to go see that day. I wanted to go home and see about taking a shower, removing the hated yellow pollen off my body, and taking an antihistamine, so I told them we weren’t going with them.
I tried to smile, but if you have ever seen me smile when I am ill, it is not pretty. Swollen, weepy eyes. Red, runny nose. Blotchy, sweaty skin. I pry one bleary eye open and try a lopsided smile, but to no avail. Plus, the collar and sleeves of my nice outfit looked like an overused car wash chamois.
So, yes, I can no clearly say, I am highly allergic to mountain cedar pollen, the kind that grows under legal protection in 33 counties in the Texas Hill country.