“Mom…what can I dooooo?” My 9-year-old whine carried well through the screen door.
“What do you want to do?” she’d reply.
“Oh…gads! You always say that… There’s nuthin’ to do!” My brain idled at half-speed. As much as I had longed for the endless discoveries of summer, when the sun threw the mercury up that tiny glass tubing in our thermometers, all parts of me moved into slow motion.
Mom had donned a simple cotton dress signalling a scorcher. Her movements revolved around page turning or rolling four cigarettes at once in her mega-roller. Thankfully, she clung to the coolness offered by the meager insulation of our two-storey home. No garden weeding today.
“You could always water the garden…” She had a knack for reading my thoughts. Sitting on the steps of the porch, I moaned inwardly and pretended I didn’t hear.
I whispered, “We need a swim, Scamp.”
Scamp, my border collie whose example taught me how to stay buoyant in a dog paddle, laid in the shade of the one tree by our house. Usually a coil of canine energy, he only panted. Droplets of saliva fell off the end of his long pink tongue. The only way to a swimming hole was by car or bicycle. My brother, the strategist, had taken possession of the supposedly shared bicycle months ago and reveled in the art of being gone before I thought of putting in a bid.
Grasshoppers clicked their announcement of short flights to greener pastures apparently tired of endless dust. Pods from the caragana hedge cracked audibly in the heat, tossing seeds with optimism of surviving a Canadian winter. The air hung in a blanket of hot, non-refreshing dryness.
I found a container and filled it with water for Scamp. The water slowly became a world of salvation to numerous other creatures.
First came the wasps. Then, tiny ants. They busied themselves in the splashed droplets left by Scamp’s erratic tongue lapping.
My crop of sunflowers, massive heads facing the sun, had begun to droop. I carried pans of water to their roots and whispered a quick apology.
I remembered seeing a chrystalis in some bushes near the sunflowers. I hunted until I found it.
I crouched into position to see what stage it had reached.
I had caught a butterfly climbing out of its cocoon the previous year. This one was not ready.
“Come on, Scamp. Let’s go to the slough.” My dog and I trundled down to a swamp where many of us had built make-do rafts. Long branches became the poles we’d use to push our rafts over green slime and endless displays of pond life. I found a good size raft for Scamp and me, grabbed a pole and shoved off.
Scamp stayed aboard until we reached an opening from the green scum that covered a large part of the water’s surface. Then he slipped overboard for a swim. “Ewww. You’re not sleeping on my bed tonight, you mutt!”
I laid on my stomach and watched the life beneath me as the raft floated freely on the water.
Those days had to be captured in memory and burned into my upbringing. The camera I carried was my brain.
As the sun headed west, a welcome breeze dictated the direction of my discoveries. Questions rose with every observation and teased my curiosity.
After his swim, Scamp had obviously found a cool spot somewhere in the shade. One word from me and I knew his smiley dog face would appear.
Hunger pangs reminded me it may be time to head home. I poled back to my launch spot.
“Where are you, Scamp?” He came out of his cool grassy warren and we headed home.
“Hi Mom!” I yelled as I raced in the door and headed for the fridge.
“Where’ve you been?”
“I was out lookin’ for the rest of the kids.”
“Did you find them?”
“So what have you been doing?”