What a great evening! Diary of a Turtlehead Lynn didn’t miss a trick in organizing this event, down to the little tiny notebooks we got to share blogsites. Everyone has thanked the hell out of Lynn already, but she deserves at least one more really big THANK YOU for organizing this. If we do this again next year (and I hope we will) I nominate Lynn to put it together!! Yay!!
I have to admit that beforehand I was a little leary of having to sit through 3 hours of people reading, but it wasn’t like that at all. Every one of the readers was captivating in their own unique way and everyone had such dynamic and engaging reading styles –there wasn’t a dry monotone among them. Colour me delighted.
This is what I finally decided to read last night at Blog Out Loud. I posted a version of this story a long, long time ago in another incarnation of this blog.
When I was an innocent, fresh-faced adolescent, growing up in the heart of Canada’s fruit belt, I once spent a summer babysitting the three kids that lived on the neighbouring farm while their parents saw to the harvest. I was so naive at the time that I truly believed that spending 12 – 15 hours a day with two very young boys, a 6-month old baby and an ugly, randy, black dog named, Fletcher, was preferable to picking or packing fruit.
This was back in the day when summers were hot and this particular summer was the hottest I could remember. The kids were miserable all the time. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, so I couldn’t take them to a movie theatre or a play park or even to visit friends. We hung around the dusty farm playing by the dried-up creek. Or we’d walking through the bush looking at bugs. But most of our time was spent splashing in the kiddie pool trying to keep the heat at bay and shaking Fletcher off our legs.
It certainly wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever had, but it surely wasn’t the best either.
Until…around about the middle of July. The job benefits increased dramatically when my boss took on a farmhand – a blond, young, strapping, guitar-playing Adonis-like farmhand. Eddie. Eddie was only a couple of years older than me, soft-spoken, with a halo of Byronic curls and the soulful eyes of a poet.
He moved into the small hired-hand shack in the middle of the apple orchard. The very apple orchard that edged our property. The very apple orchard and shack that I was able to see clearly from my very own bedroom window.
Eddie would spend his evenings sitting on the tiny porch of his summer shack, strumming his guitar and smoking. Sometimes he’d sing along, softly in a sweet, sad voice.
I often watched him from my bedroom window before I went to sleep — memorizing everything for my dreams. I’d hear him singing as I drifted off to sleep, imagining him sitting, shadowy, under his dim porch-light.
Of course, I was completely besotted. He was so unlike all the boys I knew from school; so grown up, so sensitive, so perfect. His skin was clear. His hair was clean. He played guitar. He lived in his own shack!
Eddie and I would say hello and smile at each other if we happened to pass in the farmyard. Or perhaps we’d exchange some brief word or two when I’d bring out the Hi-C in the scorching afternoon for the thirsty pickers. But that was all. We didn’t seek each other out.
Instead, I spent the summer in a hazy fantasy involving Eddie tossing pebbles at my bedroom window late at night, beckoning me to join him on the front porch of his shack. (The fantasy went hazy to overcast and foggy at that point because I was, afterall, still very young and innocent)
Late one hot, sweltering morning near the end of August, the skies suddenly grew black. A frantic wind danced through the thick humidity. A rumble of thunder could be heard approaching in the distance. The air became charged with electricity as lightening crackled over the hills.
The pickers were all sent home. The morning’s harvest was hurriedly packed and loaded onto the truck and the farmer and his wife drove off to get their fruit to the cannery.
The farmyard was deserted in record time as the storm raced toward us. And then there was just me, the kids, the ugly black dog and Eddie. The kids, of course were in super high-gear because something new and exciting was going on. Eddie rushed around putting equipment away before the rain came.
And all at once, the skies exploded with a crash of thunder and lightning and the clouds opened wide releasing a torrential downpour. Everyone screamed.
I hustled the kids and the dog indoors without any of us getting too wet. The screen door slammed behind us. But where was Eddie?
We looked through an almost opaque curtain of rain and could barely make out Eddie as he struggled to close the barn doors against the lashing winds.
By the time he got himself up to the house, he was soaked to the skin; his hair plastered darkly to his skull; his clothes clinging to him, dripping on the kitchen floor. The kids had never had this much fun. They jumped up and down. They laughed at Eddie. The ugly black dog was so excited he was trying to mount the baby.
Then there was another boom and a crack that shook the house and then the lights went out. And then we were in the dark. It was like night. Everyone but the baby went quiet.
We all rushed to a window to see if we could see what had been hit by the lightening. But it was too dark and too wild out there. The heat of the last few weeks was just a memory as ferocious winds swept the farmyard.
Eddie shivered and peeled off his sodden t-shirt.
He shrugged and stepped into the bathroom.
The kids decided they were starving. They needed food. The baby was trying to mount the ugly black dog.
And Eddie emerged from the bathroom with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist.
He grinned and blushed and murmured an apology for not having anything else to change into.
I stammered something in return which I’m sure was inane and I suddenly felt grossly overdressed in my shorts and tank top.
The kids were climbing into the fridge foraging for sustenance. Eddie and I decided we’d better feed them.
Eddie lit some candles and I scrounged around the pantry for something everyone could eat. I found some tins of Campbell’s Tomato soup. Eddie got the kids out of the fridge and found some bread and cheese. We decided to make soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Eddie set himself up at one side of the stove creating cream of tomato soup. I was at the other side grilling bread and orange cheddar.
We were only millimetres apart cooking. Stirring, sizzling, steaming. I could smell the rain on Eddie, but oddly, could smell neither the soup nor the cheese nor the grilling bread. He turned and smiled at me every so often and once said something about cream of tomato being his favourite. I felt a little silly admitting I’d never had tomato soup in my life, let alone tomato soup with milk in it. He was so amazed. He promised I was in for a treat. We laughed. I don’t know why.
Then, strangely, after a certain point in the kitchen that dark morning in August, I don’t remember much of anything about what the kids or the dog might or might not have said or done. Seems to me everyone and everything but Eddie and I were in a state of suspended animation, though I’m sure that can’t be true.
I know we all sat around the kitchen table safe and dry in that farmhouse while the storm raged on outside. And we ate the sandwiches and the cream of tomato soup by candlelight.
And I clearly remember thinking that cream of tomato soup was the single best food in the whole entire world. And I marvelled anew at Eddie who was, on top of everything else, surely the best cook in the whole entire universe.
Things quieted down after a while and I tucked the two younger kids in for a nap while the older one did something in a corner of the living room with his little cars and legos.
Eddie and I washed the dishes and then sat ourselves on the sofa talking about stuff. I don’t remember what. It wasn’t important.
At the beginning of September, Eddie went back to wherever he came from. But we spent pretty much every evening until then, together on the tiny porch of his shack. We listened to music and talked some more. Sometimes Eddie would play something on his guitar and sing and I would get a lump in my throat willing myself not to cry at the beauty of it all.
And Eddie was so very chivalrous the entire time. Oddly so, I think now. Not that I was irresitable at 14 or anything, but he was a 16-year-old boy with his own pad and without any other company for 2 whole months. And there I was totally, and probably very obviously smitten.
But to me, at the time, I thought it was perfectly lovely to be with such a kind, respectful boy. It all so terribly, terribly romantic. All the more because I knew Eddie and I would never see each other again after the summer.
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but to this day, whenever I eat tomato soup or experience a summer storm I always feel a small warm whisper of that extraordinary afternoon in August and Eddie.