Sitting on my front porch was one of my favorite things to do after a day of playing in the dirt, or walking down the street to school to run up and down the football field. The porch was like the day’s final resting spot. Not like a death, but more like a place for contemplation and reflection. Sitting on the brick-laid steps I’d watch the lizards jump from bush to bush and try to guess what color car would drive by next. The mosquitoes hadn’t quite come out for their time in the sun yet, so sitting on the steps, catching a breeze here and there, watching the cars pass, while I try to guess what’s for dinner by sniffing the air for any sign of red beans or baked macaroni seemed to be the best idea at the time.
Mrs. Reynolds would come out and put her sprinkler over by the azaleas, wave and smile as she saw me sitting with my knees up to my chin and my hair needing a brush. She always wore nice clothes. I knew she was retired but neither one of the Reynolds’ wore shorts or jeans or anything like that. But then Dad was like that too. She would go back inside after adjusting the spray of the sprinkler. She’d touch her hand to her forehead to feel the moisture just about to start from such a humid day and then walk back toward the house.
Across the street to the left were the Littles. Not sure why, but we considered them our enemies. I think it was because we were scared of them. I don’t remember any girls over there and there were like 9 kids who lived in that house! Every time I walked past that house I looked to see if there was anyone on the lawn. Sometimes they would yell things at us and I tried to be so cool about shaking off whatever they threw at me, but the truth was “they scared the crap out of me!” Further down the street was Jackie Gleason’s house. No, I didn’t live down the street from Jackie Gleason, but we did live down the street from a house that reminded Jen and I of the Jackie Gleason Show because the windows had these green, drop-pleated curtains that, I swear, were also on the Jackie Gleason Show.
Car after car after car passes by. I make my way down the end of our walkway to the curb and I sit. I rest my feet on the street and watch for the red ants (you never know where they’ll put their next hill) and look again for the next car. I lean back on the lawn and hope that there aren’t too many bugs crawling into my hair, but it’s just too delicious to be home in the summertime, at the end of a lovely day, with all of the cars driving past the house. I loved the sound. The “whoosh” of the cars passing was hypnotic. Watching for the cars would be a favorite activity of mine for years to come. A car stops. I hear the door close and I hear a scream!
“Oh, my goodness, you’re ok! I’m so glad! I thought I rolled over your poor little feet!”
She was wearing a cocktail dress with gloves on her hands. She was crying. I had never seen her before. Her car was stopped right in front of me and I hadn’t even seen it. I must have been in the clouds, or listening for the ants or the lizards. She pulled me up like a rag doll. I let her pull me but didn’t succumb to her shape and reciprocate. I didn’t know what she was doing. Dad walked over from the driveway where he had been messing with the lawn mower.
“I thought I rolled over her feet!” she called to Dad.
“Oh, well, Diane, come on let’s get some dinner. I’m sorry she scared you,” he said to her.
My eyes were a slave to him. When he spoke I looked his way while she was squeezing me out of gratitude that she hadn’t flattened my feet. Dad took my hand and seemingly peeled me off of her, nudging me towards the house. I knew my front lawn meditation was over and that I should go see Iona for dinner now. At least I’d find out what was for dinner. I wonder what became of the lady who almost ran over my feet? I think about her more than I ever thought I would have.