Extracting childhood memories
EXERCISE IN SCENE SETTING: It is not meant to be a complete story. It is a slice of life meant to be included in a scene in some future story. Please don't read as if it were a plotted story, it is merely a slice-of-life piece.
I don't know why I remember this, but in the mid to late 1940’s our family spent every weekend at my Nana’s house. Nana’s youngest children, my aunt and uncle, are twins only one year older than myself. Grandmother Johnson’s two-story house faces the street. It's the third house down from the railroad tracks that carries the twice-daily coal train from the mines to somewhere East. There’s probably ten homes on our street, all on the same side. The other side of the street is a nursery next to a huge expanse of fields where they raise their Christmas trees and various fancy shrubbery.
Every home except our neighbor on the right has kids who are all about the same age. In the house to our left lives a couple with two girls. Both our age but they are never allowed to play with the rest of us. In fact, I very seldom see those girls leave the house, only glimpses of long tightly curled blond hair as they are hustled into or out of the family sedan. The family owns the nursery. I think they are very rich.
Twice a week the Ice Man makes his deliveries in a horse-drawn wagon. A huge tarp covers the blocks of ice packed in sawdust. All of us, except for the two curly-headed blond girls next door, show up behind the cart for the free chips of ice he always has handy.
Nana’s house has a wrap-around porch which I love, because whenever it rains we kids are allowed to gather on it and run and play to our heart’s content. Sometimes at night during violent thunder storms, I sneak out and stand at the railing. I watch in total awe as long jagged bolts of lightning, for a split second, turn night into day. Thunder vibrates through my whole body as the wind whips the cool rain into my face. I feel indestructible.
Nana always catches me though. I once asked her what causes the thunder and lightning and she told me that it was God bowling up in heaven. Whenever he gets a strike, we hear thunder and see lightning. Riiiight Nana.
As a rule, during the summer, there's no schedule as far as meals. We're allowed to play non-stop until dark . That's my favorite time. It's the evenings when small bats flit and dart crazily, expertly ambushing the foolish insects drawn to the soft glow of the street lamp. The girls emit high pitched yelps which must confuse the bat’s locating sonar. They run screaming into their houses frantically brushing their hair with both hands. I’ll never understand girls.
Some nights though, we push the limit and keep playing hide and seek in the cornfield behind our houses. I hear mother calling my name in her familiar high-low lilt. I hear other mothers calling for their kids in the same musical way. I’ve long since traveled the world and have heard other mothers, in many lands and in many languages, calling their children in from play. It’s always the same two note cadence, high to low--a universal call from mother to child.
Giggling, fingers to lips, shushing each other, not daring to laugh out loud. Musn't give away our location.
Then, two or three screen doors slam shut and we know what’s next. After a few sharp loud whistles from the fathers, the fun is over and we high-tail it for our respective homes.