I wake up, listening to the heat bugs yelling through the open windows. Put on my bathing suit, my attire for the day. Eat cereal. Look at the water and the sky and the people on the other side of the bay. Listen to lawnmowers. Listen to someone singing in the next cottage. Wait for my cousin to finish her breakfast so we can begin the day’s activities.
Head to the beach. Run as fast as we can to the water’s edge, trying to save our feet from the blistering sand. Have to stop halfway to stand on our towels, because our feet are on fire.
Find my place in the line of bodies. Fix the sand so it’s smooth under my towel. Form a mound for my headrest. Lie on my back, and dig my toes down to the cooler layers. See the sun through my closed eyelids. Bright orange. Feel the heat pressing on my skin. Listen to the conversations surrounding me. My family. My huge tribe. Almost all of these people are my blood.
“Do you want to go in the water?” We stand at the shore. I see my mother and aunts, standing thigh deep, talking for hours, it seems. My sisters, my brothers, my cousins, swimming, splashing, laughing. “On your mark, get set, go!” We run like hell and dive. Laugh. Decide to have an underwater contest. “Back up some more, and we’ll swim towards each other. Ok, back up some more.” My lungs are ready to explode, my legs and arms propelling me through the water, looking for her body coming towards me so I can breathe again. Blue lips and wrinkled fingers and toes. Back to the towel and that glorious heat. Wake up, wipe the drool off my face, and do it again.
We eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. Drink lemonade from a can. Freshie from a packet. There’s never enough grape, and too much orange. Purple tongues. Purple moustaches.
We make blanket forts on the porch. Spend hours in the sun, playing make-believe with our dolls. “Ok let’s say they’re best friends, and they’re going on a trip…” Paddle in a boat, looking for turtles. Stand on the rocks with a minnow line, catching sunfish with balls of white bread. Gotta be fresh bread, the stale stuff just falls apart. Dig up clay and make ashtrays that no one uses, leaving them on the rocks to bake. Wander dirt roads, looking for secret hideaways. Waddle through drainage pipes, trying to get to a waterfall.
Evening brings bonfires and marshmallows. Walk past the graveyard in the dark. Play Hide and Seek. Thundering steps on the hard ground, then a yell ‘Home Free’. Look at the raccoons in the tree. Catch fire flies in jam jars. Play Murder in the Dark. Listen to adults laughing and playing cards, their heads and shoulders visible through the window.
Pee in the outhouse with the door open. Check for spiders first. Climb into bed in the one room that holds us all. Sleep like the dead. Wake up and do it all again.