Who’s ready for summer? Donna Comeaux is! Sit back and enjoy this story about summers on the Gulf Coast.
By: Donna Comeaux
One perfect spring day many years ago, a breeze blew caterpillars into my hair and I ran off squealing, hating to touch those ugly creepy crawlers. Knowledge of their metamorphic process escaped me. In their new form, I watched them flutter through the air in brilliant pigments. After many attempts, I’d catch one and hold it on my fingertip as its soft beautiful wings slowly moved back and forth. I delighted in their competition for space with floating dandelions, dust mites, bumblebees, and wasps.
I had enough time back then to spontaneously roll up my pant legs on hot summer days, grab a fishing pole, and stand on the edge of a sunny, warm, windy Gulf Coast. Fishing was not only fun but serious business. A successful catch determined if we had meat for dinner. Crabbing was more of a challenge and proved scary for a nine-year-old. If careless, you’d find yourself in a fit of pain. Careful, and you rode home with pride.
Two steps off a stoop in any direction in our tiny city and you’d land on the Gulf of Mexico’s upper lip. Late summers provided us with more water than we knew what to do with. It was the season for it. It’d recede in time. However, the rain had a way of slowing us down and keeping us in one place. So, we made time for other fun things—baking cookies, making cool-pops, popcorn balls, and praline pecan candies.
If we needed a dollar or two to pay our 4-H Club dues or entry fees for another contest, we’d sell dinners to hungry refinery workers, offshore seamen, beauticians, and shoppers outside neighborhood markets.
When Grandmother wasn’t trying to meet a deadline, she’d teach us to sew pretty dresses to wear to church. In those days, there was no such thing as a CD player, iPad, PC, iTunes, or YouTube. News and music traveled through a twelve-inch box plugged to a wall. If the tuning wasn’t quite right, it crackled or faded in and out. Every Sunday morning, without fail, Grandmother turned up the radio then moved about the kitchen and prepared breakfast. I can still hear the radio flooding our bedroom with the sounds of gospel music while hot fluffy biscuits permeated the air. Cane’s syrup, in its traditional bright yellow can, sat in the middle of her table. Butter and fig preserves not far away.
I remember one of Grandmother’s many desserts—a hot peach cobbler on the cabinet in need of a large scoop of ice cream and a tablespoon. Or what about the scrumptious bread pudding I still haven’t been able to replicate.
Granddaddy cut sugarcane from his backyard where we’d sit on the porch swinging our legs, cackling and teasing one another as pure liquid sugar ran down our faces.
On hot days, we sat in the grass and ate cold watermelon then engaged in a seed-spitting contest. Other times, we sneaked peaches off Granddaddy’s trees, rubbed them hard against our shorts—our way of cleaning them—then we’d open wide and bite down. Disappointed, we found worms inside, or worse, they’d be hard and green. Hadn’t Granddaddy warned us to stay away from those peach trees? Hadn’t he warned us they weren’t ripe?
If we didn’t get into trouble over the peach trees, he’d scold us for picking figs too early. Granddaddy had two of them. We raided both. I can’t tell you how many times Grandmother made fig preserves and not once did I watch her do so. I wish I had.
Though Grandmother was a stay-at-home-mom, she sometimes worked as a maid for what she called “pocket change.” She would bring clothing home that needed washing and ironing. I watched her scrub stubborn stains on a wash board, hang shirts on the line then mix a powdery substance with water. She dipped the shirts into this glob we have come to know as starch, wrung them, squeezed them into tight balls then placed each one in the refrigerator. Hours later, we took turns ironing shirts to perfection.
I was a girly girl—dressed like a princess in secondhand clothes, always neat and clean, proper in speech. I must have taken on the façade of an alien to my younger family members. Once, I turned adventurous and decided to act tomboyish and climb trees so I could be like everyone else. Falling one time too many forced me to give up the sport. Instead, I played with dolls, skipped rocks across a creek bed, jumped rope, played a horrible game of marbles, played jacks (always, always losing to my mother), made mud cakes, and caught tadpoles in a nearby ditch.
I relished competing with my brother to see which one of us could balance on the railroad tracks the longest. After we begged mother to let us spend the weekend with Grandmother, we packed our bags and scurried off. At night we swung as high as possible to see who’d touch the stars first before one of us went inside wimpy over mosquito bites.
Fifty years later, I’ve lost things with age—patience, time, loved ones, and tender moments meant to be enjoyed the instant God loaned them out.
The most precious thing I’ve lost is time. A part of me wants more of it. The other part of me is glad I have so little left. My remaining seconds motivate me to ante up and use time wisely. You couldn’t have convinced me of this revelation years ago. I tried to put as many errands as possible into my day so I’d officially be a part of the growing society always needing to flaunt their busyness.
I’m wiser now. I crave intangible things. Moments. Moments it might take to sink my feet in hot wet sand and not worry about how I look in a bathing suit. Moments I might lie in the grass and blow bubbles while I ignore condescending stares. It would be nice to cut open a fresh watermelon and suck in its aroma, remembering the days I never won a seed-spitting contest.
As I watch dandelions fly through the air from my home office window, I can’t help but wonder if somewhere out there a child is giggling and laughing and having fun in these early days of summer. Maybe they’re playing in the rain, splashing their feet in one puddle of water after another. Are they trying to catch each droplet with the tip of their tongue? Drenched in pool water, have little feet trampled on momma’s new carpet as they tease one another over who’s the best swimmer? Perhaps little ones are mesmerized by new zoo animals or trying to waddle like baby ducks. It’s a given that parents have extended their children’s curfew during these hot summer months and allowed them to chase fireflies with Mason jars. And undoubtedly naughty brothers choose to chase sisters with earthworms or snakes they found in the dirt.
How many times will you scream at the kids to— Stop running in the house! Oooh, there’s nothing like the sound of children playing in . . .
Born and bred in Texas, Donna resided in the Gulf Coast region until she married and moved to Oklahoma many years ago. Her desires to write began at the tender age of fourteen and though she didn’t heavily pursue her dream until her children left home for college, her passion for writing never waivered. She began writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) in 2013, and still writes for them today, regularly submitting new articles for publication. She has written devotionals for Hope-Full Living (http://www.hope-fulldevos.com) and Believer Life. Essays, editorials, and commentaries can be found at http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Donna_B._Comeaux. On her website (www.awriterfirst.wordpress.com), you will find inspirational stories, tips and rules for writers, sample chapters of stories she’s working on, and spiritual devotionals.
Donna and her husband, Glenn, have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma and Savannah, Georgia.
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