Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summertime trouble

We heard the sounds of the fire engines, my neighborhood friend, Jill, and I, roaring through the neighborhood on a summer evening.

It was about 1956.

The sirens were louder than I’d ever heard them, and suddenly I realized it was because they were so close. In fact, careening down Howell Street towards our alley.

When I wondered aloud where they were going, Jill joked, “Maybe to your house!”

I felt numb as fear overtook me. It had been my evening chore to take out the trash and strike the wooden match against the barrel. One of the rules associated with this task was waiting to see that the fire started properly and watch it until the fire slowed down.

But, of course, I was in a terrible hurry that evening. In a rush to resume playing with my neighborhood friends, I dumped the trash into the barrel, struck the match, quickly threw it in, and rode off on my bike.

How could such a sweet little thing get into so much trouble?
(By the way, this was my favorite sundress. It was pink and blue.)

Turning up my street and approaching the fire truck parked in the alley, I knew I was in very big trouble. My first thought was to stay on my bike and ride away, but knowing I’d have to face the music sooner or later, I opted to face it sooner and get it over with.

My mother gave me a stern and rather frantic look as I approached. If I recall correctly, Jill rode away. The fireman on the scene gave me a lecture, explaining some of the trash fell over onto the brush along the alley fence, and could have quickly spread and been much worse.

Then my mother pretty much repeated everything he said, but in a much less friendly tone.

I am quite sure; in fact, I'd bank on it, that I had consequences that have somehow been blocked from my recollection.

But the worst consequence of all was seeing my younger sisters and brother all looking at me, as only siblings will, fully realizing the drama of the whole episode.

And very glad it wasn’t them in trouble this time.