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"Journey into the Whirlwind"
by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

It was one of those deliciously warm, summery days that entice one into escaping into the garden early in the morning. The birds were perched on the wires calling for fresh water and more food, please. The little house chores were almost forgotten as a weed needed to be pulled, a bush needed to pinched back, the plums and peaches needed to be inspected. The cat has it right as she stretches out to expose her belly to the hot sun.

Random memories of similar days flicker in my mind: Kay in her summer pajamas having breakfast under a shady tree; Kay with an ice cream in a cone, the ice cream melting down the side – sweet, sticky and tempting, and Kay slowly, carefully licking the last remaining bits; Kay playing in the sand beside her playhouse, making a zoo with strawberry baskets holding small, plastic, exotic animals.

I see myself as a shy, quiet, pudgy child at the annual picnic in Birch’s Grove. Mom worked so hard to prepare the food and I am sure that we weren’t much help. She would fix fried chicken, potato salad, frosted loaf cake, all packed in boxes together with jars of Watkins Fruit Punch cooled by chunks of ice chipped off of a block in the ice house.

I called her “Mama” then. I am sure that she must have called out to us, “Quit that running around!” and I am just as sure that we ignored her, running under the shady trees, giddy with excitement. Feeling so free with no chores to do, playing with friends, eating lots of food and later, I think, there were fireworks.

Sitting in the meeting next to Mama, it was so warm. There were so many warm bodies around and sleep slowly overcame me. I remember sinking deeper and deeper into sleep with my head against Mama’s arm. I wonder what she thought and felt during those years. She was a relatively young woman with all those children and with so few material goods.

As the day wore on the heat was like a thick blanket. Everything and everyone slowed down – children walked instead of running, young couples would take a walk talking in low voices leaning toward each other. The mothers would talk about the community engagements, marriages and babies. The fathers would lie on a quilt or blanket with their hats tilted down over their eyes and indulge in rare treat – an afternoon nap. Later the men would congregate and swap stories, probably a little risqué, and would emerge laughing and full of camaraderie.

As the sun began to sink in the west and everything turned golden in the lengthening rays, a kind of melancholy would fall over the group. We had laughed too much, had eaten too much, had played too hard, and we would slowly, reluctantly, pack everything up and drive toward home. It was over, that golden day, but in my mind, on a day that promises heat and languor, just before the memory slips away, I catch a glimpse of yesterday, lingering in a corner of my mind.

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