It was a part of the state with harsh soil that sat unobtrusively in the middle of nowhere. It was a land of rural farms, blackberry cobblers, grass burrs and goat heads where every day was very much like the one that came before. But to a child, it was an open field to play and love and sometimes there were special days that came along that changed the sequence. Such days summed up all the best of the south during the heat of summer. It was with such gusto that I looked forward to the reunion. Watermelons, peas, pies, and chicken lined tables that beckoned for company. A food bonanza with the added attraction of fly swatting.
The best thing of all this was the huge swimming pool in the park. I had never seen a pool that big. One could get lost in it. There were some little steps with hand rails where you could climb over into deeper water then bounce up on your toes to see if you could touch bottom. If you couldn’t, then you could just hang onto the side railing until it was too tiring and then go back into shallow water.
All these thoughts ran around my head as we pulled into the parking lot. My grandparents were tired from the long drive made even longer by the fact that grandpa never travelled faster than 45 miles per hour.
I was out of the car as soon as it stopped. White sneakers bounded through the grass toward the bustle of the crowd. I was searching for my cousin, Trudy.
“Say young lady, what’s the hurry here?” said Uncle Paul.
“Nothing, just glad to get out of the car,” I answered.
“Well, come love my neck,” he said with a smile.
I truly thought I had never seen so many of them together. My grandparents made their way through the throng of people.
“Hello Lila,” said Aunt Unice to grandmother. “Don’t you look nice in that shade of pink?”
“Well, thank you,” said grandma as she embraced her sister.
Aunt Dulcie and Aunt Agnes stepped up to give their greetings.
“Oh this is wonderful, looks like a good turn out,” said Aunt Agnes.
“Lila, so good to see you looking well, and forever more! Look at little Irene. Isn’t she growing up on us?” said Aunt Dulcie.
“Come give Aunt Dulcie a hug.”
I took a deep breath, if I could just get through the preliminaries, the rose water and the soft, wrinkled frowns, then maybe I could find Trudy and we could hit the water.”
“Come see your Aunt Unice.”
“Tell Aunt Agnes what you’ve been up to.”
And they arrived. More relatives churned around as if being stirred in a big cauldron. I was in and out of the shuffle, smiled at, compared to, and planned for. Then I spotted her.
“Trudy! I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for you,” I said.
“We’ve been here awhile, there are so many people everywhere,” she answered.
We sat together under the oak tree. I was blonde and she was dark. I liked her eyes, and they way I could make them bigger by telling her scary things.
“Remember the other night at the farm?” I asked
“Yes,” she said.
“What do you think that noise was out there?” I asked her, referring to the noise outside the bedroom window.
“I don’t know,” said Trudy, turning to me with her eyes wide.
“I think it might have been him,” I said.
“Really?” she looked looked at me square in the face.
“Maybe, I think he snoops around, gets bored you know; he doesn’t have much to do, and maybe really doesn’t know where he is,” I said.
“What’s wrong with him; was he born that way?” asked Trudy.
“I think he was,” I said.
“Oh, I hope it’s not him, and if it was, I hope he goes somewhere else,” she said.
“Girls!” said aunt Minnie. About that time the lunch call brought us around….