Memories of Roly-Polys and Swimming Pools

And a few more memories of childhood in Alabama (I’m past a dozen now)….

12) My neighbor’s backyard had the feel of a fantasy. He had a swimming pool and a fig tree. In my own backyard, we had muscadines and scuppernongs, and I would sit under the thick ceiling of vines and pluck them one by one, the juice bursting out hot from the sun. I’d spit the skins into the grass. I climbed our plum tree and ate plums one after another, but the figs were not ours, which made them more delicious. The tree leaned halfway over the fence, and I felt morally sound snatching anything that hung onto our side, although my mother would stop me if she saw me doing it.

The pool, though, was the big lure. My mother was pretty strict about me going anywhere by myself and she was particularly nervous about the water, but our neighbors were elderly and trustworthy, and she (for some reason) imagined that they were watching out the window as I swam, and, anyway, I was allowed to go swim a couple of times a week. Tropical plants grew high and dense around the pool—maybe some of them were canna lilies—and I was totally hidden from my own backyard, and those nice old people never checked on me. I would swim laps until my arms and legs ached, and then I would go sit under their fig tree and stuff myself with figs and it was complete freedom until I heard my mother’s voice calling.

13) Roly-polys. The joy of the gentle tap that turned them into tiny armored balls. Also lightning bugs—the satisfaction of moving from the two-handed clapping catch to the one-handed grab.  Honeysuckle. Dewberries, picked warm off the vine, fingers pricked over and over, worth it.

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