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Monday, June 7, 2010

Reptilian Habit(ats)

In typical New England fashion, the glop of humid air that descended on us this weekend exited amid a rush of twisting trees late yesterday. To the north, thunderstorms tore limbs and stopped traffic on the highway. At our house, thunder muttered and coughed, but once a dry squall mustered the leaves into a quadrille and departed, it left us with today, the kind you pray for when your daughter is getting married, there's a special graduation to attend or you plan to walk twenty miles for charity.

My agenda involved none of the above; instead, I served coffee and pastries to seniors in an antique house doing business as a function room located on a hill above our breeze-dimpled harbor. The sun hung from the sky; a professional calendar picture stacked with bright cumulous clouds on the horizon. Shifting winds set branches tossing like the heads of aging horses on their way out to pasture, but the air heated up anyway--I threw my sweatshirt aside while clearing dishes and wiping down counters. When I returned home though, our house, nestled in a shady street under pines and hundred-year-old-oaks, was freezing. Shivering, I walked down the driveway, the only place on our property with sun at that hour, and sat down to the hot tar of memory.

When we were growing up, three times a week in the summer, our mother trekked some combination of her six kids to swimming lessons at a man-made beach on a small lake in our town. Petite and underweight, we were all stick-like wraiths with an unswerving affinity for water; playing in the pond long after the lessons ended, until we shuddered and our lips turned blue. Then, wrapped in towels, mom packed us into the car for a ride to the next town and a shady farm stand where she’d purchase fresh produce, corn, carrots, or peas, before delivering us home for lunch.

Though as much as a half-an-hour could go by between the time we passed the raucous waterfall on the road to the farm, yanked on the clanking scale where customers weighed paper-bagged goods and our arrival back home, we’d step out of the car still shaking. The quickest cure was to spread out our wet towels on the hot asphalt driveway and lay down like soft snakes. The blistering blacktop steamed the dampness from the towels and fed sauna-like moisture into our frozen cores. Sometimes we fell asleep and woke blinking and confused when mom called us in to eat.

It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted warmth via driveway. Something like twenty-plus years ago in a house with a driveway that climbed at a 35 degree angle, we experienced a similar day to today. I wandered out, sans towel, and planted myself down for a warming snooze, only to startle awake to an anxious neighbor idling her car at the bottom of the driveway, asking if I needed an ambulance.

Perhaps it was the lack of towel that caused her concern; in retrospect, the presence of a striped mat might have communicated some planning to my nap. Recalling that embarrassment and sensitive to the parade of cars that ribbon down our street, today I relocated myself out of sight on a bluestone path at the side of the driveway and lizard-like, absorbed the heat.

15 comments:

Ro Magnolia said...

Giggling at the image of you lying on your drive, trying to explain to a "concerned" neighbour that this was your bed of choice! :D

My Mum always gave us homemade gingersnap cookies after a cold swim. I suppose the "heat" from the ginger was intended to warm us up. I still have a hankering for gignersnaps when I get chilly. :)

Ro Magnolia said...

Giggling at the image of you lying on your drive, trying to explain to a "concerned" neighbour that this was your bed of choice! :D

My Mum always gave us homemade gingersnap cookies after a cold swim. I suppose the "heat" from the ginger was intended to warm us up. I still have a hankering for gignersnaps when I get chilly. :)

Robin said...

This post made me smile. I always appreciate the way you tell a story. The unfolding shall we say. When you got to the part about the neighbor stopping to make sure you were okay, you had me grinning. Somehow, I don't think that today will be your last day on that little path soaking up the sun. Isn't it wonderful to rediscover things that we love?

Traci66 said...

I am running a little late for the 40 and over Friday Follow but better late than never right. I am now following you and hope you will come see me at http://traci66.blogspot.com

Tabitha Bird said...

Love this. Lizard-like heat baking is always fun :)

Thanks for your comments on my blog. :)

Jon Paul said...

Liza--

You were once kind enough to compliment me by suggesting I should teach. That idea is one I still consider, and may some day achieve.

I now feel compelled to return the favor and suggest that you should write a novel. If you can conjure engrossing images like these, simply for the purposes of a post and for the reading pleasure of a paltry few like us, I can hardly imagine the wonders you could come up with if you turned your full talent toward something larger.

Maybe you think it's not in the cards, but perhaps it should be. :)

Only my two cents, of course! Loved the post, as always.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Hahaha! You poor thing. I cracked up at your neighbor at the end of the driveway. Now that is not something I've done.

but I must say, I'm enchanted with your writing. You paint such vivid images, taking us back to your past in such an evocative way. I hope you're working on a novel, luv. you've got a gift.

Simon C. Larter said...

This made me smile. Liza, I've said it before and I'll say it again: your descriptions of nature are wonderful. It's definitely one of your strengths as a writer. You see nature in a beautiful way.

glnroz said...

Did you really do that on the driveway... lol.. Great.. Interesting how certain weather can make you "remember" things as they once were,,Good for you if you really did the Driveway thingy,,,you got "gump-sion",, lol.. and yes the BBQ baked potato had gobs fo butter unerneath interlaced with shreded cheese... yummmmmm

Jon Paul said...

Also, there's a little something over at my place for you. :)

Helen Ginger said...

The image you create of you asleep on the driveway had me giggling. I bet that neighbor enjoyed telling how she found you.

Straight From Hel

sarahjayne smythe said...

Wow.l I'll have to echo the others here about the quality of your writing. It's lovely. And thank you for stopping by my blog and following. I'm over here following you, now. :)

Pam Houghton said...

I like the build to the humorous ending. The "wondering if you needed an ambulance" part was funny. Enjoyed!

Sharon said...

I agree with Jon Paul. I'm ready to read your novel.

"The sun hung from the sky; a professional calendar picture stacked with bright cumulous clouds on the horizon. Shifting winds set branches tossing like the heads of aging horses on their way out to pasture..."

That, dear lady, is writing. More, more, more.

Nishant said...

Giggling at the image of you lying on your drive
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