Tadpoles, Mystery Radio, and Fireflies = Magic!

Tadpoles, Mystery Radio, and Fireflies = Magic!

Summer officially began June 21.  Tell us the story of a favorite summertime memory!

Growing up, we didn’t take family vacations.  We didn’t share family meals.  We weren’t reminded to brush our teeth before bed or prompted to say our prayers.  We walked on eggshells… a lot.  Keep quiet and out of site – that was our motto, our creed, our slim hope of getting through the day without being yelled at or beaten or worse.

Summertime was our “big escape”.  No school for my brother meant fewer trips up to the nursing home where my mother worked to help out where I was needed.  The moment the sun came up, my brother and I were out the door, and we didn’t come back until long after the sun had gone down.  Most of the summers of my youth just blend together – nothing out of the ordinary for our already out of the ordinary young lives… most of them, but not all…

I cannot tell you how old we were, my brother and I, the summer my mom informed us that we were going to go stay with my grandparents.   My grandparents lived right across the street from my great-grandparents, so it was sure to be a summer filled with old people and whatever it was that old people did.

One of the things those “old people” did was garden.  When we arrived, we were told not to chase the frogs that were in and around the yard, the gardens, and the flower beds.  Frogs, we were told, were good to have around because they ate bugs… lots and lots of bugs.

After a particularly hard rain, my brother and I ventured out to the park behind my grandparent’s trailer.  To our amazement, beneath the slide was a HUGE puddle, and in that puddle was hundreds of tadpoles (ok, we didn’t really count them but it sure seemed like hundreds).  Yes, tadpoles… baby frogs.  Frogs eat bugs, remember, and were therefore good.  My brother and I were about to make my grandparents SUPER happy and rid their gardens and flower beds of bugs F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!

Our only concern was where to keep the tadpoles until they grew into frogs.  That puddle wasn’t going to last long in the Texas-triple-digits-summer temps.  Light bulb moment!!  Another thing these “old people” did was fish…so much fishing, in fact, that they had their own minnow tank.  (For those of you not familiar with a minnow tank, think large, metal wash tub about 4 feet long and 3 feet deep.)

After what seemed like endless trips back and forth from the slide to the minnow tank and back again, we got all the tadpoles transferred over.  As the days went by, we heard Pappaw mention to Mammaw several times that the minnow tank didn’t seem to have as many minnows in it as it should.  Not wanting to spoil the surprise, my brother and I would just giggle and run off to see if we could see any new frogs jumping around.

Then it happened!  FROGS!  Honestly it was like how I imagined the plague mentioned in the Bible to be.  One could hardly walk without stepping on a frog.  Their little dog was in heaven chasing them around.  When we saw Mammaw that day, we were beaming – 100 watts!  “Surprise!  Now you won’t have any pesky bugs!!”  We proceeded to tell the entire story of our painstaking efforts.  Mammaw was not as happy as we had thought she’d be.   Thus, we spent the next few weeks across the street with our great-grandparents.

Our great-grand parents were as different from each other as night and day.  My great-grandfather, Truitt, was fun, caring, and a great story teller.  My great-grandmother, Virginia, was controlling, no-nonsense, and, well, not all that grandmotherly.

As I mentioned before, summertime in southern Texas means months of triple digit temperatures.  It was during the summer months that my grandmother slept outside on the screened in porch.  Grandpa preferred the total darkness of his back room bedroom.  My brother and I took turns sleeping with each great-grandparent.  On the nights that I slept with Grandpa, he would tell me stories – large, wondrous, imaginative stories.  I loved those stories and would drift off some time during each one and dream of far-away places and grand adventures.

Then there were nights with Grandma… Grandma had one thing on her bedside table – a clock radio (and I am talking about the old clock radio where the numbers flipped over one by one.)  Grandma liked to listen to a station that played late night murder mysteries and other spine thrilling radio programs.  “Liked to listen to” might be a stretch.  Grandma fell asleep quickly without much chit chat, but I would lay there and listen to the programs and watch as the numbers flipped by slowly.  The shows scared the daylights out of me with their creaking doors and clop clop of shoes, and yet, I couldn’t NOT listen.  The next morning, Grandma always complained that I gritted my teeth (something Grandpa never mentioned).  I am sure it was those radio programs!

That summer was magical in that it was probably THE must uneventful summer of our youth.  I remember laying in the grass (after the frogs had hopped to other yards), watching the fireflies, and just smiling for no real reason at all.


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