Someone you grew up with.
July 24, 2014
Wake up. Fight with Daniel over who gets the last mini-box of Froot Loops. Win because you are the baby. Smirk because he has to eat the Cheerios instead. Watch cartoons with the boys. Laugh until you cry when William does his Foghorn Leghorn impression. Talk to David on the phone. He’s at Band Camp at Tech. You are jealous. He promises to bring you a T-shirt.
Beg Charles to take you with him to the field. He does. He lets you drive but the tractor is really hard to shift. Bug him to take you back to the house because it’s 95 degrees and it’s only 9:00 in the morning.
Start bugging your mom to take you to the pool. It doesn’t open until 1:00 so you know you have a few hours to convince her. Make a bargain that if you help her clean house, she will take you. Dust haphazardly. Play the piano. Get in trouble for banging on the piano when you should be dusting. Find a library book you just read last week but really liked. Start reading it again. Get in trouble because you should be cleaning the bathroom. Take the rugs outside to shake them. See some kittens. Get in trouble for playing with the kittens when you are supposed to be cleaning your room. Sulk. Mom decides the house is clean enough and sit with her at the dining table and paint for the rest of the morning.
Mom tells you to go call Charles from the field so you can have lunch. It does not occur to your that calling your dad “Charles” is anything but normal. Eat fried baloney sandwiches with Mrs. Baird’s white bread and Miracle Whip. Fritos. Bean dip from a can. Charles eats a whole tomato from the garden. He slices it with his pocketknife. It’s gross.
Mom finally decides it would be okay to take you to the pool. You wait for Mrs. Henderson to get off the party line and then call your best friend on the black wall phone and see if she’s going to be at the pool. Then call your other best friend. And the other one. You have all their numbers memorized. You will remember them forever.
Put on the cute new swimsuit you got at Maxine’s and tie the towel you got at Wacker’s around your waist. Decide that looks stupid and put a big t-shirt on over the swimsuit. Dig your rainbow flip flops out from under bed.
Impatiently watch Mom put on her makeup. You put on a little Love’s Baby Soft and some Dr. Pepper LipSmacker while you wait.
Finally, it’s time to go. Get into the station wagon with seats hot enough to blister your legs. Complain about how hot it is in the car until you are almost to town. Get your mom to go by and pick up your best friend. Then swing by and get the other best friend.
Pay at the pool with the quarters from the stash Mom keeps for the Laundromat. Your mom stays around and you feel like a baby because she sits watching you, talking with her friend on the benches in the shade, but feel better when one of the lifeguards tells you that your mom is good-looking. Ogle the lifeguard when he walks away and giggle with your best friends.
Think it is so cool that your best friend has some little barefooted “Hang Ten” decals stuck on her hip. As she tans, they leave little white footprints. You have the coolest best friend of anybody. All the boys stare at her because she already has curves. You tag along, straight as a board and invisible.
Splash around in the water until you get too cold. Get out, rub Hawaiian Tropic coconut oil all over and lay on your towel until you get too hot. Tiptoe across the hot pavement, trying to stay in puddles so you don’t burn your feet, and jump back in. Splash around until you get too cold. Get out, rub Hawaiian Tropic coconut oil all over and lay on your towel until you get too hot. Repeat until you are exhausted or until your mom is says it is time to go.
Your friends stay at the pool. There will always be a ride with someone they know, someone they grew up with.
Bug your mom to stop by the Boston Superdog. You are starving. Get a frozen custard on a cone.
Wait in the car with the motor running and the air conditioner on while Mom runs into Piggly Wiggly to get some Tabs and Marlboros. Drip frozen custard on your leg. Lick it off. It tastes like coconut and chlorine and summer.
Go to the library. Turn in the books from last week and pick out more while your mom talks to PeeWee. PeeWee doesn’t yell at you for dripping water on the carpet because you are her favorite. She knows you would never drip on the books. You don’t have to have your library card with you but you do have to sign the card with your fat signature. She shakes her head when you check out “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” again. You laugh when you see one of your best friend’s names on the card as many times as yours.
Your mom drives through the Longbranch and picks up some Lone Star for Charles. Fernie and Joanne and them are coming out for supper and honky-tonkin’. You can spend the night with Granny if you want. You want.
Put on your shorts and tube top and the Keds you wore when you went swimming in the stock tank. Try to step on Charles’ stomach because he’s lying on the floor in front of the door in his cool spot with his head propped on a sofa cushion. He has on moccasins and monkey socks, even in the summer. He tickles your feet until you can squirm away.
Run down the trail to Granny’s house. Kittens tumble after you. Arrive just in time for supper. Colby cheddar cheese toast from the toaster oven, banana, milk and a Coffee Nip for dessert. Tell Granny all about the pool and the library. She asks you about your friends. She knows them all, and their parents, and their grandparents. Talk about the tea party you had with Fig Newtons and Dr. Pepper. Read a letter from your city cousins. Watch Wheel of Fortune. Go for a walk with Granny up to the highway and back. She wears her calico dress and Hush Puppies and cuffed white socks and a pith helmet. Challenge her to a race. Your 77-year-old Granny almost outruns you. Sit on her porch and look out at the cotton field and suck the nectar from the honeysuckle and play with the kittens. You don’t have to talk when you’re with Granny. It’s okay to just be with her.
Granny reads her Reader’s Digest aloud to you until time for bed. She sprays Solarcaine on your sunburn. She lets you put on some of her Blue Grass Dusting Powder to keep you cool. You put on the pink gown you keep at her house and brush your teeth with Granny’s special toothpaste. Her guest bed is tall and you are short. She still has to help you up on it. She brushes your hair and puts it in one long dishwater-blonde braid. You brush hers, short and white. She kisses you goodnight and her skin is so soft and so sweet.
Wake up in the night and miss your mom. It’s dark outside but the road is white caliche and you know you can find your way. You put on your Keds with your gown and walk home slowly. It is pitch black and the sky is crusted with stars. You can weave your fingers in the Milky Way. You name some summer constellations: there’s Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. There’s the big blue star Vega right up overhead in Lyra. Charles told you if you ever got lost, you could find North by tracing a line from the outer edge of the Big Dipper’s bowl to the first star in the handle of the Little Dipper. That’s Polaris. You are not lost but you do it anyway.
Follow the porch light home and try to sneak in the back door but it slams anyway. Mom is still up, laughing hysterically at a movie about an evil doll with a big knife. She hears you come in and lets you watch the evil doll movie until you get scared and then she makes you go to bed. She gets one of your kittens from the porch and tucks it in bed with you so you won’t be afraid. She leaves the door to your room cracked so the hall light shines in.
Feel safe. Believe things will always be like this. Go to sleep. Dream.