I have been getting quite a lot of requests for more of my family stories. That’s an honor, believe me. My family is insanely rich with colorful, funny, touching, down-to-earth real stories. Some, I gladly admit are just out-right hilariously insane tales. I would be hard pressed to make this stuff up. I don’t need to. Sometimes, I will change a name or make a slight diversion in order to preserve my hide.
Here’s one such tale. It is written as a haibun (prose with haiku). I read it recently during a Poet’s Coffee House Series at a local university. I have revised and tightened it a bit since its first reading. It was well received, so now I’m sharing it with you. I hope you enjoy it!
Summers with my grandparents in Mississippi stick with me. The “air you can wear” humidity plasters everything to everybody. Bug wings and grass clippings adhere around children’s bare feet. Starched collars and lacy slips shrink-wrap adults. Even the ink on Wal-Mart bags tattoos vinyl car seats when left in the sun too long. This summer is “hotter than the third level of hell”, as my uncle says.
I’m glad church is over. Without air conditioning, the flames of hell were almost palpable. My reward for not squirmin’ on the hardwood pew is an afternoon pass to the state park swimming pool. No fire and brimstone threats compare to the salvation of chemically sanitized water. I peel off my sweat-soaked Sunday-go-to-meetin’ dress and wiggle into a one piece bathing suit. I’m cussin’ with every maneuver. There’s a staunch rule against two piece suits for females on the park grounds. I find that stupid and sexist, but I don’t dare say anything like that out loud to where my grandma could get wind of it.
Suffering through church is worth it. I can’t wait for the intense smell of chlorine and a chance to show off. I know how to do flips off of the diving board and cannonball into the deep end without holding my nose. Most kids there can’t or won’t even try.
Pass in hand, I prance past huddles of already sunburned shoulders flopped around old truck tire inner tubes floating in the water. I hesitate for a second because a rising echo of laughter is bouncing off of the water in my direction. A lanky boy in cut-off jeans is pointing to the back of my right thigh. There, in big bright letters are the words “Time To Shine”. I had sat painfully still during church today…on an advertising fan for a new car wash. I’m shining, alright. My face is fiery red.
on the radio…
I know what you might be thinking about now. self-deprecating humor,(tellin’ on yourself) to some, is not a way to be kind. If that is your opinion, run with it. But before you do, think about it this way: If laughter is the best medicine, in spite of MS, I’m as fit as a fiddle. If I take my life too seriously, I’ll not be fit for a grub worm relay. So, why not have a little fun and poke at yourself once in a while? It will keep you from gettin’ too big for you britches. It will help you to forgive yourself and that, my friends, is being kind.