This post is a response to the Red Dress Club’s Remembe(red) prompt on memory. We were shown a photo of a hose attachment with a spray nozzle and told to write about any memories that we might have associated with that image. I struggle with being able to recall most of my memories from early childhood, so I did allow myself a little breathing room with this exercise.
* * * * * *
I watched my daughter and her cousin chase each other through the sprinkler, racing towards the Slip-n-Slide. It was a real Slip-n-Slide, too, not just a random piece of tarp covered with the kitchen dish soap and a running hose! They were all smiles, laughing hysterically, too young to be embarrassed by being seen playing in the hose in the front yard. Their princess two piece bathing suits rode up and exposed little butt cheeks, pink from sliding down those vinyl mats that so famously guaranteed to provide “hours of fun.” Their hair stuck to their faces and necks, dripping wet and adorably messy.
I never had a slip-n-slide when I was a child. They were what my family considered expensive back then, and I don’t recall being able to play in the hose either. Water wasn’t free, you know. Our sticky, hot summer days were spent in the pool at our grandparent’s neighbor’s house, or at the beach. I don’t recall ever complaining about that, as I was busy collecting the small, colorful clam shells that littered the shoreline, tangled in sea weed, or cannon-balling into the deep end of the pool, while my friends were stuck at home in their own yards, confined in the 40 square feet between their mother’s watchful eye and the sidewalk.
I made a run to the Burger King down the street and picked up two chicken nugget kid’s meals, compete with toys and Cokes. The chicken nuggets came shaped like lightening bolts and moons, some marketing ploy to go along with whatever kid’s movie was being endorsed by Burger King that month. The kids sat at the dining room table, greedily stuffing those chicken nuggets down their throats. The faster they ate, the faster they could get back to the Slip-n-Slide. I heard slurping as they chugged those Cokes and then the pitter-patter of their little feet as they ran back outside. SLAM! went the front door, and they were back in the sprinkler, charging towards the slippery mat beneath the shady bottle brush tree.
When I was a kid, we only had Burger King on Sundays, after church. It was hard to eat out, even at a fast food restaurant, when there were six mouths to feed and clothe. I understood, I was old enough to know that money didn’t grow on trees. Mom would pack us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Rubbermaid pitchers full of ice water or juice, fruits and cookies in a big bag. We’d come running up from the surf, our wet, sandy hands outreached for her clean towel. We’d sit, all in a neat little row, while she handed out our lunches on the paper plates she had brought from home. We’d eat our soggy, but flavorful sandwiches, slurp our Kool-Aid from our plastic cups, basking in the fun, satiated by the meal, by the fun, a day out of the house.
After I’d taken my cousin home and seen to it that my daughter had a bath and washed all of the chlorine out of her hair, I settled her in bed to watch – as she did every night – Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I laid with her for a few minutes and she sang along with Sebastian as he serenaded the star-crossed lovers. She snuggled down under her plush Disney comforter and smiled up at me. She yawned and her eyelids grew heavy. I knew she had a great day, and I was happy to give it to her.
When I was her age, I shared a bunk bed with my younger sister, and my youngest sister slept in a trundle bed up against the wall. We would climb and crawl all over those three beds, jumping from one to another, competing to see who could jump across all three the fastest. We slept across the hall from our parent’s room, the apartment so small that we could hear the click of them changing the channel on the TV in the living room after we went to bed. We’d collapse into giggles, knowing that dad couldn’t find the remote again, and fall asleep to the slow, dull drone of the laughter trickling in from the living room.