Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hours later, I feel the sun burning my skin

Once, age sixteen, I went to the Indiana Sand Dunes, an area of the shore of Lake Michigan that is all high sand hills.  It was common for couples to go to prom and then, the next day, go to the Indiana Sand Dunes for an all day picnic and, I always believed, sex.  I went to a couple proms but I never went to 'the Indiana sand dunes' as part of a special, big-deal date.  I was such a Catholic girl in my all girl Catholic school.

One day, some girlfriend got her family car and three or four girls went to Indiana Dunes State park. We spent the entire day on the beach. It was the first time I had ever gone 'to the beach' without my parents, or any supervising adults.  I am sure my folks thought an all-girl trip was fine and dandy. And it was.  My virginity was safe.

No one, however, told me to cover up my skin for most of the day. No one suggested I should not stay on the hot sand, along the water, in my bathing suit all day long.

My back and the back of my neck ended up so badly, and deeply, sunburned that my skin was scaled. Ridges upon ridges of burnt to a crisp skin. My skin.

I knew before the end of our time at the beach that I had overexposed myself to the sun so I covered up. Too late. The damage was done.

By the next day, my neck and back were on fire. Heat literally emanated from the crispy scales that seemed to sizzle. My skin sizzling!

My mom took me to our family doctor, Dr. Lorenz. Dr. Lorenz kindly talked to me about never exposing my very tender, very Irish, very burnable skin to all day sunshine ever again. Then he told me to take a towerl, soak it in water, freezer the wet towel in our freezer and then place it on my back. He warned that it would be hard, even painful, to spread the frozen, icy towel on my back but I had to do it anyway. He said the frozen towel would draw some of the heat out of my burned skin.

This was not a casual sunburn.

Dr. Lorenz was right. Those frozen towels did draw out the heat, reduce my suffering. It still took several weeks for all my dead, burned skin to fall away, for new skin to grow. The only thing that soothed me, for not even moisturizers and skin lotions helped, were those frozen wet towels.

My daughter inherited her dad's complexion. She has a very faint olive tone in her skin and she tans. No one in my Fitzpatrick clan ever tanned. I have never had a tan. I get burned and then my burn stabilizes if I am swimming outdoors every day, which I am doing again these days. I still look red but my skin gets to a point where it stops burning.

Katie also got her dad's brown eyes. She does not look a lot like me but, and I don't think she knows this, she looks a hella lot like my mother. Once, when she was about thirteen, I took a photo of her and my mother, then forgot about the photo. When I found it years later, I was amazed at the identical angle of her nose, her clavicle, her eyebrows. Side by side my mother, they looked very much alike.

She got her coloring from her Kreifels kin. Her bones from my mother, who, like Katie Joy Kreifels, was a great beauty. And, apparently nothing from me but love, exposure to the arts, cello lessons, private school, camping, season tickets to multiple theater companies, then season tickets to dance companies. And endless, and expensive, dance classes. And at the end, I sold my duplex, with its income production, to finance her first college. And she got my love, which seems to mean diddly squat to her.

And I bet she loves believing she looks like the Kreifels instead of me, since she hates me. But she looks like a Crowley. Like my mom.

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