Mom used to have sayings.
I wrote some down.
‘That’s a bunch of hooey’ meant she sniffed a fib.
‘Now waiN’t a minute’ meant she was winding up
to a lecture. Or… a spanking.
Were her sleeves pushed up?
That’s how you could tell the difference.
‘I’ll tell you one thing’ was her warm-up
to a litany of other things.
And ‘You’ve got another thing coming’ was usually
her final pittance on a personal stand on any given issue,
generally followed up by a hard chuckle inside her neck
as she’d turn her back on you. Walk away.
All these things are true.
No wive’s tales.
You can also believe her when she says
a full moon makes people do crazy things,
and that her Mom entertained strange men in a
horse trough. The May Pole was some other sort of
shenanigan, just as ridiculous and disdainful.
Lots of dumb bunnies back then. Crazy bat shit.
I remember some umbrellas had lights. Reflective beads.
How we had to wind the handles hard to open them up.
How every time we forgot to roll them down, an accidental
wind would have its way. I remember the years wicker held
us in softer lines, and the time your sister Mary came &said
our place made her feel like nothing bad could ever happen.
I remember the dove and her babies. Your strawberries.
Dancing on the concrete in my suit like I was 4 instead
of 40 to that new song about sunshine, or maybe a house.
I remember hanging curtains, because you wanted shade,
&unfolding a rug which the dog chewed-up on one end, just
like she did to the underside of my hammock’s striped sling.
I remember sunscreen, hair bands, safety gates, squabbles,
and timeouts. Tossing the girls goldfish into their mouths
like they were water creatures or mermaids. I remember that
popcorn drizzled with peanut butter&honey tastes better melted
in the sun. I remember Marco Polo pauses, reflective small voices,
that April’s always too soon to go swimming, that ice never lasts.
It wasn’t a fence we wanted to jump
but a bridge we wanted to ride.
Every man, woman, teen or toddler
in Abilene went down low water
bridge one way or another.
One time, a kid rolled his trike down
&got a spanking from his Grandma
when he got home. Bigger high school
boys tested their skateboarding skills
down low water, pushing aside worries
over washout holes &no helmets.
Another time, a man put his VW bug
in neutral to see if he would come out
on the other side without any juice.
Even I rode down low water almost
every single day on my girl’s bike
with two quarters tucked under
my fingers to pay admission to the
swimming pool on the other side.
I had my terms: I’d pull up hard
on the handlebars, gain enough speed
straight-up pedaling like a devil or else
get off my bike &walk in shame
with one of mom’s bath towels hanging
around my neck. If it didn’t rain, if
low water didn’t get washed out I mean,
I’d pedal to swim in the pool, or else
I’d swim &fish for crawdads right there
in Mud Creek. Either way, Mother Nature
wanted my feet to get wet that summer.
~ Hell if I knew Eisenhower announced his Presidential candidacy here in 1952! But it’s engraved in stone beside the flowered pergola I stood across from in ’79 where two kids pressed their lips and limbs together in the rain.
I’ve nearly forgotton about our late July trips to the dump, but I have muscle memory of it.
In the back of dad’s ford truck, I sat on the wheel hub, hemmed in by splintered two by fours with holes in them from the nails I pounded out, some powdery drywall puzzle pieces I helped tear apart, and the broom mom gave me to sweep it all out with when we were done.
“Get it out there, girl!” Dad hollered at me with his thumbs tucked under his overall straps just below the silver buckles. He’d feed me more wood so I could far-fling it, shot-put it, side-wind it, or swing toss our demolition into the hole we called, ‘stinking oblivion.’
I heaved everything we had into a mingled mixed-up mountain of tree branches, cut grass and splintered lumber, being careful not to put a foot too close to the edge. Always, after we finished, dad would wipe his brow with a blue bandana folded four times inside his left pocket, and open the red ice chest to retrieve chilled Visine drops for his tired eyes, along with one fresh soda a piece for him and me.
We’d sit on the tailgate, taking swigs of orange pop. I’d swing my legs out over the great chasm, all satisfied-like.