Excerpt from Remembering Childhood: Screaming and Splashing

 

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Screaming and Splashing

 

Mommy, come quick,” I shouted from the porch. “It’s open now! Mommy, Donny’s opened the hydrant! He did it again.”

I was barefoot on the front porch of our third-story flat, bibbed seersucker sunsuit over my naked chest, my blonde curls wet from perspiration that dripped onto my shoulders. The afternoon was more than sultry. It was a steam bath. Nearby, Nana drank water with a pinch of salt.

“Come and put on your bathing suit,” Mommy called out to me.

After a quick change into the pink bottoms, I ran down the spiral staircase leading to the front door and then outside to cool jets of water. My mother followed, holding out a pair of rubber slippers.

“Don’t go outside without your slippers. The pavement’s hot.”

Can’t wait. I ran. Mommy followed.

This great treat, Donny’s doing, was an occasion for local children to act with abandon, running through the strong spray as close to the source as we dared, screaming and splashing, laughing and teasing.

By the time I got to the hydrant, all of the kids were running amok, my friends among them. Oh, the screeching, the gentle pushing, and the not-so-gentle shoving from the bigger kids. I hesitated to rush in.

They’ll push me. 

Hot Summer

Then I squeezed my body tight, bent over, and resolved to not back away. Putting aside fears of pain and big kids, I stood up and ran into the mix.

I squealed and ran close to the spray and out again. I grabbed Marcy’s hand and we romped and dared ourselves to run closer to the hydrant. Tiny needles poked at my bare midriff, and I let go of her hand and jumped in a circle to even out the thrusts of spray. Pain and thrill, fear and recklessness were at war within me, but I stayed until I was no longer afraid.

Mothers sat on front stoops wearing similar buttoned house- dresses, their hair tied up in a scarf or pinned. Most held towels, but others didn’t see the need. They stayed near enough to monitor their children, keeping an eye on them as they gossiped with one other.

Jenny started to cry and run for her mother. “Owie, owie,” she yelled.

“What darling? Come to Mommy.”
“My toe. I hurt my toe,” she cried.

Two minutes later she was back in the frenzy.
I was doing my jumping-up-and-down dance when I felt the kids pushing to get out of the spray.

Then I heard it, the disturbing wail of the police car siren, rising and falling, nearer, nearer. The black-and-white Ford with a flashing roof light veered onto East Twenty-Second Street and screeched to a halt across from our hydrant. Officer Scotch in his yellow slicker strode toward us waving his baton.

“Awww. Not yet. Leave it on. Just a little while longer.” It was no use. We scrambled.

Mommy called to me and wrapped a towel around my shivering body. In no time I was sweating on the front porch again, my hair dripping wet, awaiting the next respite from the heat.

PROMPT: What were popular summer activities in your neighborhood? Tell about a time that you overcame your fear.

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