Tag Archives: Mary Leslie Newton

Queen Anne’s Lace: A Cure for Summer Fever

Many people suffer from cabin fever during winter, when slippery sidewalks keep them inside. Instead, I suffer from summer fever. When sizzling sidewalks threaten to fry me, I hibernate inside.

Soon, though, the six-year-old in me has to play outdoors. One evening, when sidewalks and temperatures had cooled to bearable, I considered two summer fever cures: a Moose Tracks sundae or a wildflower bouquet.

Because stern bathroom scales had issued a nasty final warning, the noncaloric remedy won. Too early for fireflies, but also too early for a mosquito assault — I hoped, since I’d neglected using stinky repellent — I headed for a nearby field.

Reaching the pasture, I forgot about insects. A blizzard had arrived in summer! Drifts of Queen Anne’s lace, like thousands of giant snowflakes, covered the meadow.

I felt cooler already.

A poem by Mary Leslie Newton lilted through my mind: “Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has washed her lace/ (She chose a summer’s day) …”

No teacher had assigned the poem. I’d memorized it as a fourth grader simply because I loved it.

A skinny little girl in baggy shorts, I explored sweltering, but magical, Indiana meadows with an enchanting lady wearing a crown. Queen Anne didn’t sweat as she gathered her exquisite laces dried in pasture grasses, laces that, according to legend, had won the tatting competition she’d initiated with her ladies-in-waiting.

As a grown-up, though, I made the mistake of researching Queen Anne’s lace online. Gasp! Some states included it on “noxious weed” lists.

Insult Queen Anne? How dare they!

Instead of the aristocratic name, they called it “wild carrot” and “bird’s nest” — even “chigger weed”!

Now, I not only sweated, I itched.

Queen Anne’s lace also resembled young hogweed, a plant that made poison ivy seem like a botanical best buddy. My favorite wildflower also resembled hemlock, the poison that killed Socrates.

Not the kind of magic I liked.

Not a cure for summer fever.

Too late, I examined my “snowflake’” stems.

Whew! No purple dots that identify both hemlock and hogweed.

The hairy stems of genuine Queen Anne’s lace didn’t reflect her elegance, but they reassured me. I could return to my fairy-tale world without a qualm — occasionally good for a grown-up. Back to the magic of Queen Anne, who never sweat or itched. Back to picking snowflakes that wouldn’t melt when I arranged them in a crystal vase, admiring the wintry effect against a blue wall.

Returning with my bouquet, I mused that Queen Anne’s cure for summer fever — imagination — had worked well.

Did the noncaloric remedy top the ice cream cure?

Um … kid or adult, I’d have to plead the Fifth.

Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your cure for summer fever?