She’s standing in the kitchen, at the sink, looking out the window at a baseball game going on in the backyard.
My mother is slicing strawberries. Soon she’ll mix them with sugar and let them steep in a growing juice. She’s baking Bisquick biscuits and planning on making her homemade whipped cream from cream, vanilla and sugar. She’s in shorts and a halter top, and her hair is piled on top of her head; it’s hot. She leans closer to the window every so often, smiling at the kids in the yard.
Tod’s really good at baseball. Wendy not so much. But it’s our backyard, and we have enough room for a baseball diamond. And so it’s Wiffle ball or else the hard balls Tod can hit will break a pane of glass on the house — we know. It’s happened.We’ve had dinner. The dishes were done by two of us — whoever’s names were on the worn-out chart Mom put up ages ago on her bulletin board; with five kids there’d better be a chart.
Evening’s beginning to sing outside: the night crickets and cicadas are taking over in the trees. We laugh and run, catch and miss, tag and slide. It’s June, and the summer stretches out for miles and miles. Dad’s got a baseball game on inside. He’s standing in front of the TV. He never sits because he’s apt to scurry back to his typewriter to work on an assignment he’s in the middle of. He’s a writer with a deadline, only baseball is wildly more interesting than any old deadline.
When it gets too hard to see the ball outside anymore, we kids will divide. Carl will go home and so will Carol and Michael and Bonnie and Joe. The five of us will traipse in our backdoor and allow it to slam behind us. We’ll have strawberry shortcake and sit up late talking. Maybe we’ll watch TV, but mostly we’ll sit in the kitchen talking at the table.
The days will come and the days will go. I’ll read like crazy and wake up in the morning with bent pages of my book stuck to my arm or leg. And then I’ll read some more. That’s if Wendy isn’t up yet, because if she IS up then I am too. We’re going to go down to the park and look for frogs. The park is just down the road, and we’re allowed to ride our bikes there. We’ll be gone for hours. We will not have a cell phone or a watch, but Mother will know where we are and that we’re all right. She’s not one to worry about us; Carol’s mom won’t let her do anything that happens past 20 feet of their backdoor. Poor Carol. She’s so hungry for fun.
Wendy and I will flip rocks over in the creek and walk barefoot in the cold water. We’ll skip stones and roam without talking; other times we’ll chatter non-stop. We head home when we’re hungry and we make our own lunch. Mom will ask us if we want a sandwich, but we’ll say we want to pack our own and take a picnic to the creek.
Later it will be baseball again or we’ll play “Olympics” in the yard, pretending our cartwheels are worthy of “10s” or not. We’ll do handstands and somersaults and roundoffs. Carol will do her awesome hand spring and we’ll all shout, “Ten!” We might walk across the golf course and go for a swim. Or we might just plan a sleepover on the back porch and eat massive amounts of candy while talking into the black night before falling asleep.
I look forward to every day. Every cotton-picking adventure, because it’s summer and we’re all home. Together. And because my mother loves us to have fun. She literally encourages us to go and find it. How lucky was I?
And what are YOUR kids doing this summer?