Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summer Rain

, Summer Rain
8.5" x 11"
"Take us to the club so we can go swimming, " I begged.
"Not today, I'm busy, " Mama answered and went on with her work.
"Pleeaaasssse, take us!" I pleaded.
"Go find something else to do. I can't take you today." Mama kept working.
"But, Mama! We've learned how to swim and we might forget how, if we don't ever get to go practice!" I argued.
" Get someone else to take you. Or just find something else to do. I can't go today, and that's that!" Mama didn't stop working.
"But, Mama! Everyone else is going!"
"I said No and that's it. Now go play somewhere."
I wondered if tears would work.
I stomped out of the room, with tears beginning to form. It was so boring to have to sit here, in the heat of a summer afternoon in Texas, with no fan or air conditioning. And know that there would be lots of people out at the country club, splashing in the pool. At least there would be those who were members, and kids and parents who were not at their businesses, or gone to a cool place for vacation.
"You go ask her," I directed my little sister.
She obediently went back into the room where Mama was working and begged to be taken to the swimming pool. But that tactic didn't work either.
Maybe if I had noticed that sweat was pouring down Mama's face while she worked in the heat, I could have used the argument that she could go sit in the club house with the breeze blowing across the little water lily-filled lake to cool her. Or she could sit on a bench beside the pool, among the white lattice work that offered shade, and duck splashes of water from energetic kids-a place where she could be cool for a while. The old oak trees even offered shade in the areas around the pool, the clubhouse, the golf course, and the little drive that wound around the grounds.
Of course, I didnt' think of those things, being a kid. I could always walk out to the shade or walk downtown where some of the stores had fans, and the picture show had some sort of cooling system. But work had to be done, no matter how hot it was in the homes.
A few places just seemed to be naturally cool, no matter how hot it was, like Miss Donie's concrete screened porch and her front hall, or the City Hall steps and the tile floors inside, or the little step down concrete entry into the basement of the Methodist Church. There were places to cool off, but it might take some walking to get there.
Our small "cottage" that Daddy built for his little family, had lower ceilings, a tiny front porch, small windows in each room that didnt' offer much in the way of cross ventilation. It was more modern than the old homes with the 12 and 14 foot ceilings, and tall windows that did offer cross ventilation. Some of those people were so rich, they even had fans! At least, I thought that anyone who owned a fan at home certainly must be rich, because most people didn't have such things. Maybe a folding fan from the store or a piece of paper to hold and fan with, but certainly not an electric fan.
Some stores had ceiling fans, even outdoors under the entry. I was told that was to keep the flies away. Some homes had them, too, as did the church. But they were seldom used. I understood that they were really old and they didn't know if the wiring was still good.
Toot had a fan at her house. A black wire GE oscilating fan. It seemed to just blow hot air. She kept it on top of the refrigerator until the afternoon when her work was done. She would put a quilt on the floor of the sitting room, plug in the fan in front of her, turn on her favorite stories, lay down and read movie magazines or "Life", "Look", "Saturday Evening Post", "Liberty", or "Better Homes and Gardens" and "Good Housekeeping" until it was time to get up and get ready for the afternoon social. The ladies met somewhere at least two or three times a week, and, if she wasn't going to someone else's house, she was hostessing a get-together herself. If I was there, I had to lay down too, and look through the magazines and hear the stories on the radio, and, later, on tv, until I fell asleep.
The fan also was taken to neighbors' houses, and our's, if anyone was sick. It didn't help much in our house. Just seemed to blow hot air on us!
So, now that we had learned to swim, we really wanted to get into that pool at the club, where the water seemed to be freezing cold, until you were in for a while. We could cool off, play, meet friends there, exercise, and show off our prized bathing suits. Maybe even attract some boys.
"Let's ask Pappy to take us!" We stood on tiptoes to use the phone and call Pappy. She always wanted to do things for the kids, but we thought of her as older and not as much fun as Toot. But , she had a nice car, which she drove really slow, and would eventually get us there, along with stories and lectures about what nice girls should and should not do.
Pappy was busy too.
We went back in the house and fretted because we couldn't get out to the country club to swim. Our bathing suits, bathing caps, and towels were all ready to go.
"You may as well just forget about that, " Mama said. "It's going to rain."
She headed to the kitchen and got things out to make fudge. The sky grew dark and the kitchen light was turned on as a warm, gentle rain began to fall.
Mama made the fudge while we watched, and licked the spoons and bowl after she poured the chocolate into a buttered platter. We were still bored.
"Can I go outside?" I whined.
"I guess so. It's just raining. No thunder or lightning, just don't bring mud in the house!"
We looked out over the street from the little hill of our front yard. Edie was coming from her house, across the vacant lot.
"Put your suits on and come on over. We're going to swim in my yard." She said.
"You don't have a swimming pool at your house!" I was surprised at her offer.
"My mother wouldn't take us to the club, either, but we are going swimming anyway." She advised. "Put your suits on and come on." She walked back to her house.
The gentle rain was filling the gutter with clear water that trickled over occasional gravel and small rocks. The rain was like a soft shower on my skin.
We put on our suits, grabbed our bathing caps and towels and walked in the street to Edie's house on the corner. I could hear children talking on the west side of her house.
"Come on!" Edie called. "Can you swim underwater and open your eyes?"
Several little girls, dressed in their new bathing suits and caps, were splashing in the water.
"That little ditch isn't deep enough to swim in!" I didn't believe that this little puddle of water under her sidewalk was deep enough to swim in and thought it might be a trick. I also thought that, if I tried to swim into the metal culvert, I might get stuck, or even drown.
"Come on! Don't be a fraidy cat! Look. We all can do it!"
At the start of the puddle, the ditch really was shallow, but it deepened next to the culvert . Deep enough to swim and go under the water, through the culvert, and into a deep puddle on the other side. That quickly turned into just a trickle of water in the grass and just covered the feet. Little bodies submerged and kicked through the culvert. White bathing caps went underwater as the body could barely be seen under the water. Some swore that they opened their eyes as they went under the water.
We sat in the warm water and splashed, we swam through the culvert, underwater, like little fish, and reveled in the water falling from the sky onto our rubber bathing caps and our skin. We squealed and we splashed the afternoon away.
Going home, we splashed in the deep water of the puddle on the corner by her house, then kicked the water with bare feet in the gutter all the way to our house. The rain was ending and cerulean blue skies reappeared. A golden glow of the setting sun radiated through the oaks and crepe myrtles at the park, turning the white weeds that looked like little cat tails on the edge of the grass a beautiful shade of orange. Lights at the baseball diamond and at the corner by Edie's house, came on, signaling that a lively men's softball game would soon begin.
A taste of fudge on the steps completed the day. We were tired, but had fun playing and swimming in the puddle at Edie's . A bath with lots of soap bubbles to make bouquets and pixie hair-dos, and fresh clothes, left the skin wrinkled and our hair squeaky clean.
"Mama, can I go to the ball game?" I whined. I was tired, drained from being in the water so long, but all the other kids would be there, and I was ready to go to the next activity. It would be damp, muddy in places, but cool. And there would be soda water to put a package of peanuts in, and sip and munch, while being among friends. And who knew what cute boys might be there!
The next day, we went back to the puddle with glass jars to catch polywogs. We wondered at where the little squirmy things came from, when the water had been clear enough for us to swim in the day before.
In today's sketch, I have shown a group of little girls, playing at Edie's house in the rain. I don't have specific people in the picture, but thought of some of the styles of swim wear that we had, and some of the movements we might have made as we played in the rain. And, of course, I was thinking of our neighborhood.
We had a little badly needed rain yesterday, and again this afternoon. We didn't get much rain, but there was wind, and lots of lightning and thunder. Bitsy, my weather forecaster cat, hid under her favorite blanket. The computer was unplugged and we waited.
I remembered how nice it was to have long afternoons and days of gentle rains, without a storm. And that led to the sketch of us playing in the rain.
Unfortunately, during yesterday's storm, a teenage boy was hit by lightning at the nearby golf course. He was raising his club to hit the ball when he was struck. My daughter wondered why he didn't hear the warning sirens telling of lightning. They said that there are lightning detectors around town and on that golf course. I would think that you just would need to see the clouds, hear thunder, and head for cover. But, human nature being what it is, we just have to go on and do whatever we were doing, despite a little wind, lightning, storm, extreme heat, or whatever. That is so tragic, and scarey that it was that bad, that close to us.
It would be nice to have some more gentle rain that doesn't cause harm or damage, just to get out in and let the children play. I don't know about swimming in ditches and culverts, though. Now, I would think there might be a snake or fire ants in there!
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1 comment:

BC said...

Good memories of "the good old summer time"...baking in the sun for a tan, swimming, leomonaide, chasing and catching glow-worms, croquet, playing hide-and-seek in the dark edges of the yard, rocking and fanning, and so on... But, I really, really like the new fangled Air Conditioning!