Not stopping to smell the orange blossoms

Achoo! Achoo! …ACHOO! Sniff, sniff!
My forehead wasn’t hot. My lungs weren’t full of gunk. Why on earth could I not breathe and my head felt like it was about to explode?
Those symptoms sounded familiar to me, but why? I thought, you know, they sound like what my sister and dad go through every spring as soon as things start blooming. Their eyes would become red-rimmed along with a shining bulb of a nose like Rudolph. You could tell where they had been by the amount of crumpled tissues left behind, and the sound of sneezing blasted throughout the house. I had always sat back and grinned to myself since I never experienced anything like it.
Allergies. For all of my life, it was a term meant to describe the worst nightmare of other people, people who dreaded spring and raised their fist in anger at blooming flowers and pollen wafting through the air. Meanwhile, I’d be pulling out my favorite dresses for the warm weather and frolicking through fields of daises, breathing in deep the reproductive responses of plants waking up after winter.
Then, I moved to Florida.
A few weeks ago, I went to bed with the feeling that something wasn’t going to be right with my body by the time I awoke from slumber. I told my boyfriend over the phone that something was off and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. Sure enough, when I got up the next morning, I had to check my reflection in the mirror because it felt like my head had expanded like what’s-her-name from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who turns into a blueberry. My nose was a pointless appendage on my swollen face, my eyes itched like I’d rubbed pepper in them, and I couldn’t stop sneezing. Could it be allergies? I called out of work and spent the day asleep or reading in bed.
Why would I suddenly be allergic to pollen in the air? I asked my friend Lynn, who runs Lions, Tigers and Bears, Inc. wildlife sanctuary. Like Luke Wilson, Lynn usually has the answers to all of life’s problems.
“There must be something blooming here that doesn’t bloom in North Carolina,” I complained. “What’s blooming right now?”
“Oak trees,” Lynn said.
“No, we have those in North Carolina.”
She paused and looked at me. “Orange trees,” she said.
I could have smacked myself on the forehead. Of course! Orange trees!
North Carolina is too cold and damp for citrus. And in the foothills of the Appalachians were I lived for a few years, the climate is actually considered a temperate rain forest. Think of the non-stop downpour the Amazon rain forest in Brazil experiences but with some snow every now and again during the winter. It’s seriously a climate perfect for the Cullen family Lexcolumn033017.jpgbut not so much for oranges. Only in southwest North Carolina can you possibly work an orange grove, according to a newspaper based in Wilmington, N.C.
In Florida, the state flower is actually the orange blossom, and according to Chinese symbology, an orange represents luck and wealth. According to a florist’s website, the flower is a symbol of good fortune and is used often in wedding bouquets. Well, it’s not good fortune for my nose, and I’ll be sure to keep it far away from my bouquet when I walk down the aisle unless my future husband is attracted to a woman imitating one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs in a white dress.
I can’t believe allergies have finally caught up with me. After years of laughing at my family members’ pain, I now understand the horror of those terrible allergies. For me, the orange blossom has turned my luck for the worst.


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