Fourth of July Picnic (nostalgic...)
Summer Days by Lowell Lewis (based on a true story)
I wiped at the watermelon juice with my arm as it dripped off of my chin and carefully spat out the seeds into the grass. I heard the adults laughing at something my dad had told them. They were sitting in lawn chairs and drinking lemonade while they waited on the homemade ice cream to finish freezing--while us kids sat out here in the grass eating watermelon and spitting seeds.
Almost all of the church members had turned out for this Fourth of July get together. A few people were just friends of the people in the church--they seemed only to come on Easter, Christmas, to weddings, funerals...and to our picnics.
Mom and Dad had set up an old wooden table for the ice cream freezer and my older brother was standing there turning the handle that somehow caused the ice cream to freeze. I liked to hear the sound of the canister swishing around in the ice and salt. The handle squeaked a little with each turn and I found myself listening for each time it squeaked. When the ice cream began to stiffen, you could hear a difference in the squeaking noise--so I was usually able to tell when it was almost done--of course, once it had thickened enough to stop cranking the handle, then we would cover it with an old towel and have to wait for it to get really solid.
I thought I could hear a little difference in the squeak, so I went over to look. I paused half way to spit out a seed.
"Almost done?" I asked my brother around a mouthful of watermelon.
He ignored me and grunted a little as the handle began to be harder to turn. The squeak definitely was telling everyone that the ice cream was almost done.
He made it look so fun to turn the handle around and around. I thought I might like to do it sometime.
"Can I see it?" I asked, leaning over the freezer.
"Get back!" he commanded.
I swallowed by bite and looked at him. "Can I see the ice cream?"
"No, it's inside the canister."
"Oh," I said before taking another bite of watermelon.
He turned the handle a couple of times and then straightened up.
"I think it's done," he called to my dad.
"Put that old towel over it," dad answered.
I heard several of the men laughing and talking out by the horseshoe pits. One older man clanged two of the horseshoes together to get the dirt off of them and then carefully peered through the U shape of one as he aimed at the metal pole.
I could hardly wait until I was big enough to play horseshoes. the only time I had ever tried to throw them was when I threw one straight up and got smacked on top of my head for my efforts--I decided to wait until I was a little bigger to try again.
Little John gave out an excited whoop and we all turned to see him as he jumped up and down with excitement while he pointed at his kite which was making a popping sound in the breeze.
I tossed what was left of my watermelon rind into a big trash can and watched several small bees buzz up in surprise from out of the can. I guess they were attracted to all of the sweet watermelon juice that had been dumped there.
I heard Mary Jo giggle as she ran on chubby legs chasing after a butterfly flying in zigzags across the way. Her cheeks were pink with the effort of running and her blond curls bounced with every step.
"Here pwetty flutterby, her pwetty flutterby," she said in her tiny voice.
In the field across the way, the teen aged boys huddled over an old leather football and plotted a scheme to score a touchdown against the obviously winded young-married men--whose wives sat on the sidelines chuckling at their out-of-shape hubbies.
I found a ladybug and let her crawl on my hand while I waited for the ice cream to freeze--I wanted to be first in line, so I wasn't going to stray too far from the old wooden table.
I listened to the sound of our friends laughing and playing and looked around at all of the smiles and happy faces; this is the best place in the world to be, I decided. It kinda gave me that warm fuzzy feeling to around people who really like to be around each other.
To keep from getting too sentimental, I chased Kerry with the ladybug until my mom caught me by the ear and told me to stop.
I realized that the ladies were dipping the ice cream into bowls so I hurried over. Granny White smiled at me and handed me a bowl with a large dip of vanilla flavored ice cream. Her face was wrinkled and her hands trembled as she handed me the bowl, but I thought an angel couldn't be any kinder or more thoughtful.
I spooned a big mouthful of ice cream into my mouth and then danced around rubbing my nose and face as I got brain-freeze from the cold.
I cleaned every tiny bit of the ice cream out of the bottom of my bowl and then tilted the bowl up to my mouth to drink the part that had melted. Just as I got it tilted up, the football sailed over and socked me in the nose--it crushed the Styrofoam bowl into my face and splattered melted ice cream all over me.
Jeff, one of the teenagers ran over and asked me if I was okay. I nodded as best as I could with my head tilted back to help stop my nose from bleeding.
"I'm okay," I said through lips that are stiff with pain.
"You really got bonked," he said.
"Tell me aboud id," my nose is staring to swell and my words were thick.
He bent over and picked up the ball. "Well, Mike kicked the ball and it went off of the side of his foot and sailed over here and smacked you in the face." He took the ball through the motions. I avoided a second smack in the face by dodging the ball as he replayed the smacking action.
"I didn' really mean tell me aboud id." I said.
"Oh," he pointed over his shoulder, "well, they are waiting on me--you sure you're all right?"
I nodded and rolled my eyes--he was only concerned about me because he liked my sister.
I watched him trot back to the game and saw him glance around to see where my sister was--sure enough, she was watching him. I snickered when he tripped over his own feet and tumbled into a heap..the ball bounced crazily and four of the teenagers raced for it.
Granny White gave me some ice to put on my nose in an old lace handkerchief that smelled vaguely like medicine. She still was like an angel in my book.
My brother organized an ice race around the church. I got in line and waited for my turn. An ice race was where two people got a handful of ice and salt before running around the church. Whoever made the most laps before throwing away the ice would be the winner.
If you've never tried ice racing, let me explain: at first, it doesn't seem so bad; shortly thereafter, you'll feel a slight burning sensation; then you'll feel a serious desire to let go; if you last any longer, you'll probably get blisters on yours hands.
Last year, the Harold twins held on too long and things got out of hand--dad said we couldn't play ice race any more.
"Hey!" I yelled to my brother as I remembered this.
My brother glanced at me, "What?" He didn't sound too happy.
"Remember, dad said we couldn't have ice races any more."
He frowned at me, "What are you talking about?"
"Remember? Last year? The Harold twins?"
My brother looked puzzled and then remembered.
A loud boom made us jump with guilt. The fireworks were starting! Everyone raced to sit down--come to think of it, I hadn't even realized it was getting dark.
Tomorrow we would get to pop a few of our own firecrackers.
I saw a firefly winking and wondered what he thought about these big booming lights in the sky.
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