Thanks ever so much for the invitation, but I have no desire whatsoever to return to the hoarse and buggy days. Gasping at straws (hay fever) and scratching chigger bites is not my idea of a good time.
As she hit SEND, Molly Sullivan hoped the frankness of her Re: Why Don’t You Come Visit REPLY would not start a family feud. Her cousin’s e-mail had opened a floodgate of childhood memories and not all of them were good.
Molly’s two-week visit to her Uncle Raymond’s farm during her early youth was both an eye-opening and a nostril-clogging experience. She learned milk did not come from bottles and eggs did not come from cartons. Not initially, anyway. She also found out she was allergic to feathers and more-than-a-little intimidated by the stomping hooves and swishing tails of fly-pestered dairy cows.
Getting up with the chickens and doing chores was likewise a shock to her system. On a family farm in the good old days when agriculture was labor intensive, the kids did their fair share of the work. From day one, her bossy cousin Liz insisted on Molly helping out with feeding and watering the laying hens, gathering eggs, and hoeing the garden.
Finally, just before noon, the last weed was uprooted and the two girls returned their hoes to the storage shed. Molly’s newly-acquired blisters stayed with her.
After a bounteous noonday meal on her first full day in the country, Molly thought playing with dolls would be a restful indoor activity.
Tom Boy Liz had a different notion. She gave Molly the choice of going fishing, skipping rope, or climbing in the rafters of the cattle barn and jumping into the hay stored there.
One glimpse of the sisal jump ropes was sufficient for Molly to veto that idea. Ditto for the bamboo fishing poles. The palms of her hands had been tortured more than enough for one day.
The third alternative got off to an exhilarating start. Molly followed Liz’s example. Timidly at first, but then with growing enthusiasm.
Later, Molly would pay dearly for the thrill of the few seconds of accumulated free-fall time she’d experienced during multiple descents from near the top of the interior of the barn into the springy mounds of loose hay waiting patiently more than ten feet below. Each time she landed, her impact raised a nearly invisible cloud of dust. She was not consciously aware of the minuscule particles she was inhaling, but her respiratory system took notice.
That same afternoon, Liz and Molly consumed huge slices of a ripe, juicy watermelon as they stood barefoot beneath a shade tree in the backyard. Spitting out the seeds without regard to where they might land was a liberating experience. The girls talked incessantly as they gulped down the sweet fruit and consequently they swallowed a lot of air in the process. The inevitable burps that followed were unaccompanied by even a single “excuse me.”
What should have been an unadulterated pleasure came at a cost. There were tiny creatures lurking in the grass in search of a warm-blooded host. The parasites preferred to find a secure place to burrow beneath the flesh. Underneath snug-fitting clothing was an ideal location on humans. Some place with an elastic band? Even better.
A couple of the creatures ascended to Molly’s unmentionables and made themselves at home.
Hot summer nights with stuffy sinuses were misery personified. Aunt Helen suggested to Molly that elevating her head should help her breathe easier. Being propped nearly upright with pillows failed to provide a miracle cure, however, since the cushions were filled to overflowing with feathers.
Young Molly’s discomfort had been aggravated by the sunburn on the back of her neck and the almost unbearable itching in her midsection from the chigger bites.
Am I being nostalgic? Mature Molly wondered. No, she decided. That was a flashback.
The phone rang. Molly picked up.
“I got your e-mail,” Liz said without preamble. “I hope and pray you’ll change your mind about coming for a visit, Molly. It’s a matter of life and death.”
Hey! It's Molly, from "A Woman Who Sat On A House", in the March issue, investigating again! How fun!