Summer of 1960 When I Was 7...Chapter 7..... rainbows that danced in the mist
As summer went on, it got hotter. The air was sultry and still. The grass was brown and dry. All around us was dust, dirt, dead pine needles and large cracks in the earth. Every time a car would drive down that dirt road, the dust would stay so long in the air we thought our lungs were surely coated with dust. It was as if a fire could start just from the hot sun shining on the brittle dryness. It was as hot inside the house as outside so we spent a lot of time outside. The only relief inside was from that lone fan that was placed in the living room window pulling in the hot air.
On those hot, hot days, my mother went out every day after work to wet down the road that ran beside our house, wrestling the heavy hose, spraying the dirt to try to keep the dust down. Everything seemed to have a film of dust on it including us. She sprayed water on everything. Every once in a while you could hear her complain to herself, “Seems like I’m always fighting dirt.” The water sprinkled on the old dusty road would make the very topmost part a thin layer of mud which in the hot, blazing sun didn’t stay wet very long. The old piece of burlap that my father had placed on the outside of the fan to catch dirt was stained red from the dust that was caught on the outside. She would spray that, too. Then she’d turn the water on us. At first it was warm as the muggy air we breathed then after a while the water felt blissfully cool.
“Spray me, Momma! Spray me!” I hollered. When she finished watering the few dry flowers she had planted in the front yard, Momma handed me the hose. I let the water pour over my hot, bare feet watching the rivulets of water stream off into the dirt of the road. I squished the mud in between my toes. Momma pulled off Patty’s little dress leaving her in her panties. I held the hose over Patty’s fat little feet and she immediately pulled them back.
“It’s okay, it feels good,” I explained. She held out her foot again to get wet. I sprayed the cool water over her feet just to hear her giggle. Then she ran over to Momma and picked a marigold. I let the sweet water run over my feet again then brought it up to my hot legs. They were red from sitting on the hot concrete steps. I was wearing shorts and a soft cotton blouse that tied at the shoulder. I didn’t care if they got wet. Moonrose ran over and grabbed the hose and sprayed me. Even though I didn’t care if my clothes got wet, it started a full out water war! She chased me with the hose, smiling as big as all get out, her thumb over the end to spray the water farther. Momma grabbed up Patty, “We’re going in now. You girls, turn the water off in a little bit.”
Moonrose turned the hose toward the sky letting the spray fall like little soft rain drops. I turned my face up letting it rain down on me cooling the hotness that still lingered and marveled at the rainbows that danced in the mist. Then it was my turn to hold the hose again. I held my thumb over it like my sister had done and the water shot up to the heavens. Moonrose stood closer and with her eyes closed pretended to type in the upward water spray. The cool water splashed over both our faces. Soon Moonrose said that it was time to turn it off. As I watched her drop the hose and run to the spigot to turn the water off, I looked toward the backyard, Carolyn was standing by the fence watching.
Later in the day, my sister and I sat in the shade of the fig tree and made mud pies. I could hear Perry Como, crooning about a falling star. I had a stack of three big mud pies and Moonrose had six smaller ones.
“ Do you wanna taste my pie?” I asked her.
“What cha wanna be when you grow up, Melly?” she asked, ignoring my question.
“Oh, I dunno. A momma I guess.”
“Silly, everyone gets to be a momma. What else?” she asked and I shrugged in answer.
“I want to be an astronaut,” she exclaimed. “I want to fly,” she said as she stared into the sky.
“You want to fly in a rocket?! That’s crazy!”
“They will be sending people to the moon someday,” she said with wonder in her voice.
I cleaned my hands in a small puddle and went to see Happy and left my sister to daydream about the stars.
We kept Happy in the shade and occasionally Momma would sprinkle her with water. While looking in at Happy, I called to Moonrose, “Look at all that hair under her.” When she came to the cage, Happy moved off her nest and we could see some little hairless pink mounds. I held my breath and leaned over the top of the cage for a better look.
“Is it mice?” I asked. Moonrose didn’t answer and ran into the house to get Momma. Momma came out to see what all the excitement was. She announced that Happy had given birth to eight new little bunnies.
“We can’t touch them for a while. The mother bunny won’t like it and then she won’t take care of them,” Momma explained. We had a hard time waiting, but we watched them through the cage almost all day every day trying to catch their mother nursing them. She didn’t nurse them very often. She would stand up to feed them while they were lying on their backs with their tummies up. Occasionally one would hang on while Happy just walked away and we could see drops of milk in the corners of the bunny’s mouth. Finally after they were all covered with white hair and their eyes were open, Momma let us hold them. After that I spent most of my day outside holding one bunny or another.
to be continued....