As I finish this story, the kids in our fair town have been out of school for the past three days. Watching our two granddaughters, I find it interesting that the start of summer break hasn’t changed much over the last fifty-five years. Let’s review what happened around our house since school let out and see if it compares to anything that has occurred around your house.
Back on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo, the first day of summer break went something like this. My three brothers, The Sister and I slept till 9 o’clock. When we finally got up and made our way to the kitchen, there was no food on the table — Mom was already busy doing laundry. She said her day had started at six, like every other day, because the laundry monster wasn’t on summer vacation.
When I asked if she could fix breakfast, she replied, “You’re nine. You’re old enough to fix your own.” Looking down at the huge pile of dirty laundry in front of her, she looked back at me and added, “And you’re old enough to start learning how to do your own laundry. Go gather up all the dirty clothes in your room, especially underneath the bed, and come back here.”
Walking back to my room, I didn’t think it was fair. All I wanted was breakfast … I didn’t want to learn how to do laundry. After all, we were on summer break.
On the first day of their summer break, our granddaughters slept till 9 o’clock. Finally making it to the kitchen in search of food, they found me in the laundry room. When they asked if I was going to cook, I replied, “Y’all just had a birthday. You’re now nine and ten. Old enough to fix your own breakfast.”
Then I thought back to Flamingo Street and added “And you’re old enough to start doing your own laundry. Please go to your room and pick up all the dirty clothes, especially underneath your beds. We’re gonna learn how to do laundry this morning.”
Walking off, they complained that all they wanted was breakfast and didn’t think it was fair they had to learn how to do laundry. After all, it was the first day of summer vacation.
I smiled after them and thought, I know exactly how you feel.
The splash heard around Flamingo
On the second day of summer break, my three brothers, The Sister and I slept late, but this time it was only until 8:30 a.m. or so.
Getting up, we realized three things: first it was raining outside. Second, Mom was still doing laundry. (Didn’t really understand why because she had done all the laundry the day before.) And third, we again had to fix our own breakfast.
An hour later the rain had stopped, so Mom said it was okay to go outside and play. And that’s why what happened next was really her fault. But somehow, we kids were the ones who got in trouble for it.
The storm drain down in front of Old Mrs. Crabtree’s house had clogged with debris during the overnight thunderstorm. The backed-up water turned the entire cul-de-sac into a foot-deep swimming pool. Older Brother Richard was the first to “accidentally” fall into the giant puddle. He had ridden his bike down the hill and into middle of all that water, stopped, and was trying to ride his way out.
That’s when I plowed into him.
Richard went flying, landing with a huge splash, and disappearing completely under water. As he struggled to get up, he was yelling, but I couldn’t hear him ‘cause I was laughing so hard. Had I known that would be the start of a two-hour water war that got us all in hot water with Mom, I’d probably never would have crashed into him. Then again, fifty-five years later, I think the splash heard around Flamingo was, and still is, very funny.
Unfortunately, back then, Mom didn’t think so.
When we came back in for lunch, she told us all to take a bath, then help with the massive loads of wet laundry. After lunch, she even made us clean our own bathroom! “Y’all old enough to get this dirty, then you’re old enough to clean your mess up.”
It rained all night on the second day of our granddaughters’ summer break. When they woke up around 8:30 a.m., they got up and made their way to the kitchen. Finding me doing laundry (which they thought was odd because I’d just done it the day before), they got their own breakfast.
By the time they were dressed, the rain had stopped, so they asked to go outside. Knowing that we did not live at the bottom of a cul-de-sac like Old Mrs. Crabtree did, I told them just to stay in the yard and have fun. They did what I asked.
So, I guess what happened next was really my fault.
The Girly Girls had found a large puddle in the backyard and started to throw rocks into it. From the story they told me an hour later, one of them had “accidentally” tripped and fallen into the water. It was only fair that the other person who was laughing “accidentally” fall in also. They played in that muddy puddle like we played in the water from that clogged storm drain back on Flamingo. The results were the same: muddy wet clothes and muddy wet, but very happy, kids.
After their baths, I made them help me with the wet laundry, then we sat down for lunch. After the blessing, I smiled and said, “Eat up. Y’all need all the energy you can get. After lunch you have a very dirty bathroom to clean.”
They liked cleaning the bathroom as much as my three brothers and I did.
The Bickertons arrive
And finally, on Saturday, the third day of summer break, the Bickertons arrived at our house on Flamingo Street. Dad had gotten home early from work and ate lunch with us kids. An hour later he said, “Alright, I’ve had enough! You kids been fighting all day. If you don’t stop, I’ll find something for you to do.”
We didn’t, and he did.
On Monday, the third day of summer break for our granddaughters, the Bickertons arrived at our house. The long argument started when they woke up and never ended. It seemed they were arguing about everything. When asked why, they even argued that they weren’t arguing. By lunch time, Big Papa here had had enough, “Girls, if you don’t stop all this bickering, then I’ll find something for you to do.”
They didn’t, and I did.
That day the Girly Girls helped me pulled weeds in the flowerbeds and garden. An hour of fresh air and working in the hot Georgia sun — well, it chased those Bickertons away. They didn’t return for the rest of the day. It was the same cure my dad used a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]