We were blessed to live in the country when we were children.
There was always something to do.
A winding creek to wade in on a hot day, wild blackberries to pick for pies, and lots of trees and bushes and barns to make hide and seek more gratifying.
Having lots of brothers and sisters may have made for frequent sibling rivalry, but it also made for some great team work.
And there was seldom a dull moment.
We had a big lot on the north side of the house where Dad had experimented with gardens and miraculous growing shade trees- and even a whiffle ball field.
A couple of times a year, he would burn it off instead of mowing it.
I remember him taking the rusty metal gas can and his trusty Zippo and setting the side yard on fire with a poof and a whoosh.
And then he would stand there and guard it- careful not to let the flames lick up too high or crawl across onto the neighbor’s property.
A quick thump of a shovel or the claw of a rake seemed to keep it all in check, as us kids watched this fun, new game.
My little brother Tim must have been about eight or nine then , and apparently very impressionable.
Because a few weeks later, he decided that the yard needed another dose of incineration.
Now, don’t think for a moment that my mom was not a good mother.
She watched him as well as she could, considering there were probably seven of us fully active at that time.
I assume that one of the older kids was supposed to be keeping an eye on Timmy, but was distracted by something a bit more interesting than a bratty little boy.
My mom went flying out the door with a rug and an apron, trying to suffocate the flames before they reached the tree line.
Her face was full of terror as she kept pushing the soft sweaty hair from her forehead between the forceful pounding of the kitchen rug.
Luckily, a few neighbors noticed the inferno and came running over to help.
By evening, the yard was just a charred black canvas of smoke and ash.
(And Timmy’s butt may have been a little uncomfortable to sit on for a few days.)
But, that experience didn’t stop him.
Mom caught him frequently with stolen matches and even spotted him sniffing the gasoline can on occasion.
Once he had a semi-drunken conversation with the neighbor girl Mary after a giant whiff of fumes-
and Mary was no where around.
Mom witnessed it all from the kitchen window.
I suppose when Dad got home, there was a serious discussion, because somehow my parents immediately succeeded in putting a halt to Tim’s pyromaniac tendencies.
Thankfully the whole fascination with fire was nipped in the bud -or else who knows where Tim would be today.
But somewhere amid all our childhood memories, we always remember the day that Tim caught the side yard on fire.
I think because we were all secretly glad that it wasn’t us who was going to meet Dad’s wrath.
There were lots of ball games and races on that side yard in the years to come.
Until we all grew up…
and moved away.
L is also for Linda.
My sister and best friend. My confidant. My drinking buddy. My source of laughter. My pal, my judge, my counselor…my teacher, my tutor, my partner in crime…
Happy Birthday, Linda!
I love you!