childhood encounter with weather (no. 2)
At the frog pond, circa 1985.
“Go get the stink blown off of you,” Mom said, and Jeff, my younger brother, and I high-tailed it out the backdoor. We jumped out the door onto a black rubber mat. The goal was to boing off of the mat and into adventure. The storm door banged in our wake.
We ran through the yard, down the hill, behind the old barn and to the frog pond. We slowed before we arrived, otherwise we would scare the frogs. Jeff tiptoed through the long grass, I went up the path, to the bridge above the frog pond, where I could lay on my belly and spy the bulging eyes, just above the surface of the water.
The sun beat down on my back. “It’s a hot one,” the adults said, the adults always said. They said it like it was a problem.
If you wanted to catch something, you had to be still at the frog pond. Jeff was always more patient than me when it came to waiting to catch a frog. He was sneakier, too. He usually caught them before they jumped. If they did leap, he was fast enough to snatch them in midair.
I wasn’t as graceful and usually got stuck in the mud and sloshed in the water. Spying frogs from above was an excellent position for me. The sun beat hotter. The muggy air settled heavy on our shoulders. The mud squished and steamed between Jeff’s toes.
Being still meant being quiet. We used hand signals to communicate. When I spotted a frog, I sat up on my knees and waved my arms for Jeff’s attention. When he looked, I jabbed my pointer finger at the frog. Jeff moved slowly. He was good at slow. I pointed frantically.
He didn’t rush. He wasn’t pressed to move quickly. He never worried that one would get away. Meanwhile, I jab both pointer fingers at the spotted frog, as if Jeff might forget where it was. It is likely that I scared more frogs away from waving my arms perched above the frog pond than Jeff did as he inched closer.
“Be patient, Ruthie,” Jeff chided as the frog plopped into the center of the frog pond and swam away to a new hiding place.
I stretched and then turned back to my belly to spy the next frog for Jeff to hunt. The sun beat down and I knew the adults were saying, “It’s gonna be a hot one.”
It didn’t seem to be a problem, being a hot one, here at the frog pond. You just had to learn to be still, to be quiet, to breathe through the heavy air.
In Handling the Truth, Beth Kephart shares a writing challenge she gives her college students. She trades the Piazzolla song for the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos and invites them to remember another childhood encounter with weather of a different month or another year. I decided to accept the challenge, played Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, and discovered this moment hidden in my memories.
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I am enjoying seeing your writing process unfold as you try out different ways to write your memoir. I notice some repeating phrases in this piece rearranged to tell a different story. They create interest in varying ways because of their placement. I am learning with you as you share.
I wonder how Jeff would write this, Ruth. Each of us keeps memories solid just for us. Now when I talk with my brother, we are surprised what sticks and what doesn’t. I like reading your pond stories and loved my own playing at different ponds when I stayed with various family members, all fun, and mostly, all hot!
“You just had to learn to be still, to be quiet, to breathe through the heavy air.” Mmm.
“To be still, to be quiet, and to breathe” applies to many goals in life.