If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you’ll know that I grew up on a farm in rural north-east Scarborough, where there were comfortable and predictable rhythms to the seasons. Part of that rhythm meant that it was busy during the warm months, and we children were expected to find ways to entertain ourselves.
One day in late summer, when my father and grandfather were busy in the fields with the harvesting, my mother’s friend, Anna, came to our place so they could can peaches together. Peach canning is a long, sticky, steamy process, not helped at all by having small children in the house, and between the two of them, there were seven.
I was the oldest, about ten, as I recall, and I was expected to lead the tribe outdoors to play. The younger ones headed to a small swing set and the sandbox. In the shade of a huge old walnut tree my cousin Louise, my sister Linda, and I played with dress-up clothes. We had some pretty good ones; ball gowns and long, full party dresses that my mother had scored at a rummage sale, and although we knew better, we ran to the kitchen door several times, pleading with our mothers to come outside to admire our outfits. Naturally, they couldn’t/wouldn’t leave their peaches, and we were sent back outside and told to amuse ourselves.
There were two big swings hanging from a long limb of the old walnut tree, near where we were playing, and these somehow inspired us to create a new game. Although I have absolutely no recollection of how we figured this out, we got Linda sitting cross-legged on one of the wide board swing seats, wearing a long gown which fell right to the ground all around the swing. Louise lay on the grass behind her, legs up and bent over the swing seat at a 90-degree angle, so that her feet poked out in front, one on either side of Linda’s body. With the front of the long skirt arranged just so, Louise was hidden, and it looked as though Linda had grown stubby little legs.
We took turns sitting on the swing and lying down behind so we could see the effect, and we thought it was hilarious. Naturally, we wanted to share the joy with our mothers, but they were uncooperative and refused to come out. Disappointed, we put our heads together to make a plan, and this is where things turned a little dicey.
Once again, we arranged Linda on the swing with Louise’s legs poking out the front, and it looked just as funny as the first time we did it. Then, against my better judgment, (this I do recall) I did a Very Naughty Thing. Taking a deep breath, I raced into the kitchen shouting, “Mom, come quick! Linda cut her legs off!”
Well, that got our mothers’ attention! They raced behind me to the backyard, and when I pointed toward the swing, they stopped short, processing the scene. What happened next is a complete blank.
I was an adult before I could truly appreciate the thoughts racing through my mother’s head when she heard my words. We were on a farm and the harvesting, using heavy machinery, was in full swing. Seven children under the age of ten were playing outdoors by themselves. The poor woman. I must have nearly given her a heart attack, and I’m sure I deserved whatever she gave me in return.
Mom, Anna … I’m so, so, sorry to have frightened you like that, but you should have taken a moment to look at Linda. It really was hilarious.