Escape Artist

Kate was an absolutely adorable little bundle of energy, her smile, a burst of sunshine.  I couldn’t get enough of her, except at bedtime.  Bedtimes were a marathon of up and down, back and forth.  She climbed like a monkey. By sixteen months, she’d mastered climbing over the rails of her crib.  With no fear of falling, she’d plunge to the floor.  In the interest of saving her brain, we had no choice but to put her in a twin bed. The total freedom of that bed made getting her to bed even more of a challenge, usually involving cuddling, books, quiet play, and numerous trips to put her back to bed.  Most of the time, I had to lie down with her till she drifted off.  As often as not, I’d be asleep first so she’d try to crawl over me to get out.

We had dinner guests one evening.  I made a fruitless effort to get her to be early. It seemed to give her extra energy for her usual festivities. This particular evening, she was proud she’d learned to take her clothes off, so she stripped to the skin before emerging naked as the day she was born.  I left the table four or fives times to times to dress her and put her back to bed.  The admiration of the guests only strengthened her determination to show off.    Bud always thought he knew a better way.  The last time she showed up, ringlets bouncing and little pink butt shining, he took a stern tone.  “Baby girl, if you pull your clothes off and come in here again, I’m gonna knock a knot on your head.”  This would have been a first if he had laid a hand on her. He put her back in bed and said in a gruff tone, “Now, I guess she’ll stay there!”

Our conversationed resumed.  I wondered resentfully why he hadn’t done that before.  After a few minutes, we heard pat, pat, pat coming down the hall.  A tiny girl, grinning like a bear eating briars tip-toed into the ding room.  Naked as a jay bird, she wore her brother’s football helmet on her head.  I guess he had made an impression.

 

Our Awful Friends Part 3

Illustration by Kathleen Holdaway Swain

I entered the Land of Enchantment when I passed through that gate.  Shrubs had entangled and obliterated the tangled yard fence.  An amazement of possibilities greeted me.  Hounds and a few chickens lounged on the drooping porch.  A long-abandoned truck rested on blocks.  Old tires, stacks of lumber, pots and pans, and broken toys littered the dirt yard.  The hounds had dug dozens of holes, which the kids had expanded.  A few wild children were whooping with joy, slinging missiles of Chinaberries at each other.  I never wanted to leave.  Mrs. Awful disappeared into the house while we set about entertaining ourselves, a perfect system. 

At four, I was not concerned about social order, so I made my way to the doorless truck, shoving a hound off the battered seat so I could drive, my first opportunity to get behind a wheel.  I stood behind that wheel, turning it madly, till I was shoved over by a late-comer.  I wasn’t particularly disturbed, I knew bigger kids got the first crack at stuff, so I didn’t waste time whining, just kept shoving till they moved on.  I did hurl a broken toy car as they ambled off, but they didn’t bother to come back after me.

All around me, unsupervised kids were running wild, screaming, shoving, running over smaller kids, and just having a wonderful time in general.  Fortunately, there was a wide age-range of kids, so I was able to get in on the fun.  Eventually, Mrs. Awful made it out with birthday cake, serving it up to us on napkins.  She didn’t linger long, quickly returning to her soap opera.  We heard the organ music pouring out the window.  For some reason, she left her toddler, Becky, among us as she returned to her soaps. 

Unlike a couple of the little girls, I had no interest in playing Mama, particularly since Becky’s diaper appeared fully loaded.  I had a baby brother and grasped the significance of that drooping diaper.  Within minutes, Becky’s secret was out.  Kids ran screaming as she approached, like she was “It” in a mad game of chase.  Several tumbles in the dirt did little to clean her up.  Even though she was a baby, Becky understood and protested the shunning.  She stood bravely squalling in the midst of the melee.  Even that didn’t bring her mother to the rescue.  Jamey took mercy and turned the water hose on her, hoping to sanitize her and make her more socially acceptable as he stripped her of her diaper.  To the universal delight of the party-goers, his enterprising brother grabbed the hose sprayed the general crowd, including dogs and chickens.  Should you ever want to plan a good party, be sure to put a water hose first on your list?  We joyously ripped through the spray, fighting for control of the hose.  Our game was cut short by Mrs. Awful hurling curses at us.  If only we had not sprayed water on the television through the open window, our fun could have lasted longer.  She scooped naked Becky up and exiled us to the barnyard.  Fortunately, the barnyard was promising.