My circle of high-school friends and I have known each other for more than 50 years. Janis gave us the name “The Ladybugs,” and when we get together we chatter nonstop about everything from who worked on the 1969 yearbook committee to current estrogen doses.
I bet some restaurants don’t enjoy seeing us tie up a table for hours, nor do the guests on either side of us find us as hysterical as we think we are.
Last September, I offered to host our latest potluck supper at my house, enticing them with an offer of steamy stuffed peppers and wine I’d brought back from Maine—only the best for my bug buddies.
But the coral-colored roses I’d bought for my table just didn’t seem to have enough flair of Autumn. They were not the best. The next day when I was leaving work, I noticed vibrant-colored leaves peeking through the parking lot fence. These were perfect: red, yellow, and every color in between! I couldn’t break the branches fast enough.
Channeling Martha Stewart, I laid some branches around the rose vase, tipping them toward each diner’s plate, and tucked a sprig of leaves into each napkin ring.
Oh, my friends would be blown away.
We had a lovely dinner: Janis’s salad, Kathy’s casserole, Mickey’s appetizers, my Maine wine and stuffed peppers, Cathy’s chocolate cake … heavenly offerings, shared as we shared our love. And I gifted my departing guests with their own sweet bouquets.
The next morning my eyes were red, then my hands, my neck—even my torso. Those leaves: they must have been poison ivy! I raced to my doctor for relief and called out of work.
Oh, dear God! I had to tell the other Ladybugs! I emailed them: “Get rid of those leaves! They’re poison ivy! So SORRY!!!”
The next day Kathy emailed me that she had red blotches all over her neck. Two other Ladybugs got milder cases. I felt awful. But they all, quite lovingly, forgave me.
One year later, we gathered again at my house to mark the anniversary of “P.I.I.,” the Poison Ivy Incident. This time, though, I used fake Autumn leaves for decoration and gave everyone a different take-home gift.
A jar of calamine lotion.
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This article was published originally in 2023, in GreenPrints Issue #136.