Summer Choices

Patch had a mosquito bite on his cheek. I caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye as he sat on the bench next to me at church. A closer examination revealed a second bite near his ear. They weren’t bothering him. He was too busy drawing. I noted their locations so I could slather them with lotion later. The increase in mosquito bites and lotion usage were a natural result of the additional hours we’d been spending out doors. I was outside more often and so were the kids. Since the middle of the days were too hot, we found ourselves out with the mosquitoes. Bites were inevitable, but Patch was particularly plagued. He had more bites per square inch than the rest of us combined.

Several years ago West Nile virus arrived in Utah with many loud warnings from the media. The news was full of information about how to defend against this new-to-Utah, mosquito-carried plague. We were all advised to stay inside during the twilight hours and if we absolutely had to go out, we should dowse ourselves with repellent. This barrage of advice was sometimes tempered by the annual warnings about sun exposure and skin cancer. Parents were advised to keep kids indoors during the hours of strong daylight, and if we absolutely had to go out to slather on sunscreen. I nearly laughed myself sick on the day when one of each of the above types of article aired with a third one which lamented how today’s kids spend too much time indoors attached to screens. Then down in the health section was an article expressing concern about the long-term effects of exposure to the chemicals in sunscreen and insect repellent.

At bedtime Patch came to me for the nightly ritual of bug bit lotion. The bites which did not bother him during the day, were sometimes a source of irritation at bedtime. He helped me find all the spots that were itchy and I daubed them carefully. We placed the occasional bandaid over a particularly itchy spot. Even with all of these bites, Patch did not catch West Nile, or if he had it was too mild to notice. Patch considered the itchy spots a fair trade for the evening hours spend running around with friends carrying toy swords. When Patch was tucked in, I checked on Gleek. Her skin had picked up a dark tan and her hair was bleached gold. At the end of the summer we’d need to trim off the split ends, thus delaying her goal of having hair as long as rapunzel. Yet Gleek didn’t notice or care about these things. She reveled in hours spent on bike and scooter.

I walked past a mirror where I could see my own darkened face and lightened hair. Our summer choices are writ upon our bodies. In years to come my skin will look older than that of someone who spent those same hours indoors. I may have to be watchful of skin cancer lesions. I will also have hands and arms which are strengthened by pulling weeds and a spirit which is calm and peaceful. All choices have consequences attached. No choice is free from risk. This summer we are choosing to be outside more; tans, mosquito bites, sun bleaching, and all.