In a household of nine children, the activity level could be likened to ants at a picnic. When the level got too crazy, we would be banished from the house. This usually occurred when something sent our mom to the brink. For example, one sister played jump rope with the twenty foot phone cord while Mom was talking on the phone. Immediate banishment. Another time, a sister was swinging a yo-yo and it flew off her finger, traveled in virtual slow motion through two rooms, over Mom’s head and crashing into a glass bowl of peaches on the kitchen table. Immediate banishment.
This was when Mom would calmly say, “Everyone out.” We would file out of the house and press our faces against the windows as she went to the fridge, pulled out a tall cool glass bottle of Pepsi and sit at the kitchen table. Our faces would leave greasy smudges on the glass as we each dreamt of being her, all alone in the house and away from all those pesky siblings. Oh to have a soda and sit in the air-condition just like a groovy soda commercial. Wow, she was lucky!
But alas we would slowly creep away from the window and in her words, find something to do.
The farm had an orchard with low slung old fruit trees. These trees were great for climbing high in the sky and pulling the perfect apple. It only took one unripe apple to know that you NEVER EVER want to eat an apple that is ready to be eaten. You pay. Another peril of eating apples straight from the tree was eating a worm. Each of us at some point took a bit into a worm. It was great preparation for Jose Cuervo. The orchard was perfect for playing but even more perfect for pulling each other from our hiding perch to go crashing to the ground. But truly the best about the trees, besides the non GMO fruit, was the brown rotten apples that were made, by God, for throwing at each other. The sugary sweet smell of rotten apples is distinct but the feel of rotten apples exploding upon impact on one’s body is even more distinct.
Outbuildings with mysterious past lives dotted the farm. Those lived were at one time important but innovation made the buildings into relics. The best outbuilding on our farm was the milk house. Situated at the end of the sidewalk and composed of cool cement, the milk house’s old wooden barn door protected our imagination and our treasures inside. Decades earlier the building stored cow’s milk but for us the milk house was a big play house. Each spring we cleaned the cobwebs from the milk house and measured our winter growth on the wall. We filled the room with toys and played house. The inside had a hole in the floor for storing milk that was later used to hide kittens. With a lock on the outside, the milk house often became prison for the younger kids as the older kids played warden.
Two sides of the milk house had extremely old glass windows. Replacing the windows was virtually impossible, but we couldn’t control the urge. The milk house had a magnetic pull that forced us to play Andy Over. We were told no, and we knew we shouldn’t, but the urge to throw a ball over the milk house always won out. It was like holding your hand too close to a fire. It was the one time we knew that if we were caught, we would be in BIG trouble and have something of actual significance for confession that week.
Behind the milk house was the ancient septic. It was more like the swampy-wet-part-of-the-yard-that-was-not-a-good-place-to-walk-through-without-shoes area. We all had read about the Black Plague and saw enough Brown Shoe Company films about hygiene to steer mighty clear of that no man’s land. We took pleasure in watching our city cousins stand in the septic area while playing Andy Over. They had no idea what they were standing in.
But back to the banishment. Usually after an hour outside our mom would quietly open the doors so we could return to exasperate her. Often we had no idea the doors had been unlocked for nearly an hour until she called for us. We were each too busy learning how to navigate life and finding something to do.
Submitted by Sue Webb