Photo by Pandanus Tree
This story was originally written during the summer I had turned 12 years old and could run like the wind…A Summer Wind. Since then it has been revised several times and the Aboriginal version was published last year as a children’s story & hopefully will be published in the near future as a chapter/picture book. It is a simple story based on a typical long, hot summer day in the life of two carefree girls. My life long friend, whose name also happens to be Iris, and Summer Wind, my nickname that year. We are the main characters…and characters…we were. I am related to two Irises. Imagine that! One is my niece, to whom I am sister close: (the Falcon Lake story that I shared), and the other was my neighbor/school pal whom I grew up with and knew all my nick names: (my 1st blog). Her and I had become ‘blood’ sisters and done the whole ‘Ya! Ya! Sisterhood’, ceremonial thing, (‘way, ‘way, before the movie) at one of our campouts when we were about 10!
If my trip down memory lane is as accurate as I think, then the first draft of this story was written late one night while my family were sitting outside talking until the wee hours. That would have been why I was able to sneak Shep, sticky with marshmallow goo, upstairs with me for company. With so many people around, Mom wouldn’t notice he was missing. Shep knew that about our family visits, too.
As for me, you would have found me sitting cross legged, in the middle of my bed, with the blanket over my head…YES! Even in the heat of a long summer night…my trusty flashlight propped on my pillow, while I wrote down my day’s adventures. I’m sure I helped keep the battery manufacturers in business because my sisters were constantly bringing me a fresh supply of batteries.
This is how a day for Summer Wind started.
“LILLY! It’s going to be a ‘scorcher’ today,” says Dad, wiping his forehead. “Your Mama will be able to fry an egg on the front steps!”
He winks at me.
“AWE, DAD! You always say stuff like that!” In my head I can now see Mama cooking sizzling eggs on the entrance to our porch!
As I pick up the watering can and run to the garden to do my morning chores, Bright Sunlight is already very hot. Tilting my head ‘way back to gaze at the blue sky, I see the trail of an airplane so far up that I can’t even hear it. I love the prairie sky above our land. It is as high as forever to me. I know it will always stay the same. I want to stand there and just look at it but right now I have to help Mama water thirsty vegetables in our garden.
“Thank you, Summer Wind.” It is blowing cool air on my neck as it runs past me. “Wish I could see you, but you are invisible. That’s okay. I know you are here and there.”
Bright Sunlight and Summer Wind make good partners for helping our garden grow. I am in a hurry this morning so I try to water my rows quickly.
“Slow down, Lilly,” lectures Mama. “You’ve missed some of the carrots.” She filled up my can again. I start over.
After breakfast, I feed my border collie, Shep. Now he will find a nice place in Cool Shade and sleep all day. Summer Wind will blow over his bed while I am gone. He will still hear my bike when I am coming back home and will be waiting for me at the very end of our driveway. He knows he isn’t allowed to be on the road. If it’s been a quiet day, he will walk beside me but if something new is happening, he’ll dash ahead and race me to the house.
Mama packed a huge lunch for me to share with my best friend, Iris. I am ready to ride my bike to her house.
“Bye, Mama.” I wave as I push through the gate. “Thanks for our lunch.” Before I left, I noticed that Mama had all of her baking stuff out. We must be having company. There aren’t many times when we don’t around here.
“Lilly, wait a minute. You forgot your jacket.”
“Mama! It’s so hot,” I tell her. “Dad says you could fry eggs out here!” She shakes her head and points towards the clouds gathering in the sky. I toss my jacket into my carrier and peddle out of our driveway towards Iris’s farm.
Suddenly, everything is still and quiet on our country road. I can’t hear any birds singing. I look above me at the prairie sky. Those clouds weren’t there right after breakfast. They are travelling at top speed now! I start peddling harder. “Summer Wind, push me!” Mr. Stefan’s truck is coming towards me. I move over to the side while he slows down so that Little Dust Shadow won’t get into my eyes. “Hi, Mr. Stefan! I’m just on my way to your house.”
His dog, Big Boots barks ‘hello’ at me. Mr. Stefan pokes his head out of his truck and glances up at the sky.
“Better ride quick, then,” he tells me with a wave. “Gotta go and pick up the mail before it starts to rain on Big Boots.”
Big Boots loves riding in the back of the truck. Summer Wind blows his fur in all directions. I watch Little Dust Shadow follow them over the hill then remember to look both ways before getting back on my bike. Mama says it’s a good habit, even on our quiet road.
“WOW!” I look up again. “Mama and Mr. Stefan are right! Dark Cloud is almost right here! It’s going to drop Fresh Shower right on my head ‘way before I can ride to Iris’s house!” I grab the jacket Mama made me bring along.
“How does she know these things?” I stand and peddle. Good thing our lunch is in my backpack and will stay dry.
“I wonder if Loud Thunder and Speeding Light will come next?” While I’m peddling as fast as I can, I’m only using one hand because I have to pull the hood of my jacket over my head. That made my bike wobble all across the road! Summer Wind has gotten stronger at my back. “Good job, Summer Wind. Keep pushing!” I shout. “Faster! Faster, please!” Now I can’t peddle faster than Fresh Shower is dropping raindrops.
Dark Cloud has pushed in front of Bright Sunlight. Our Creator heard Mama when she prayed for Fresh Shower to come and give our garden more water today. I have to keep blinking the raindrops out of my eyes.
“GOOD!” I shout some more. Loud Thunder, you did not come!”
My friend, Iris will be happy about that for this time. She usually loves Loud Thunder and Sky Storm, but today we have made plans.
“Hurry back, Bright Sunlight. You have to dry my clothes for me.” Shiny puddles are everywhere on the road. My tires make squishy sounds as I crunch up my legs and ride through them. Summer Wind has slowed down. I am very close to Iris’s house now. The birds are beginning to chirp again because Fresh Shower has almost finished dropping drops.
Just one more small hill and I am there. Dark Cloud has moved to our other neighbor’s farm. I hope those 3 mean brothers all get soaked!
Bright Sunlight is returning and making the Raindrops sparkle wherever they landed.
Spider Web’s lace is spread over Wild Flower’s petals. I think of Kokum’s fancy tablecloth. Summer Wind makes Fresh Shower’s perfume drift all around me. It smells nice. That reminds me of Kokum too. She smells like wild flowers. Our Grandmother lives with us but she is visiting in the city right now and I miss her.
Iris is waving at me. She has been waiting. Her mom hands her a bag of fresh doughnuts to take along.
“Thanks, Mrs. Stefan.” I think her doughnuts are the best I’ve ever tasted but I would NEVER tell Mama or Kokum that.
“You’re welcome. Have fun girls,” she tells us. Naturally, we can’t wait until lunchtime. We both eat one as we ride all over the road.
“Look Lilly! No hands!”
I can’t do that! But with the doughnut stuffed in my mouth, I can stretch my arms around my legs & put my feet up on the handlebars! Ha! Ha! Iris can’t do THAT!
Summer Wind chases us as we speed through the puddles. They won’t be there long now that Bright Sunlight is back. We turn off the road to a bumpy trail and come to our tree house. First we fly our kites in the open field. Summer Wind twirls them for us and pulls them higher and higher.
“WHOA!” Mine drops to the ground and Iris’s kite gets tangled in the trees close by.
“Hold my legs while I get it down,” I holler, reaching for a strong branch. “I think I have to cut the string!”
Iris nods. “Do it.”
I unfold my pocket knife and cut it. The kite hits the ground. “Is it wrecked?” I ask as I climb down.
“No, it’ll be okay. Thanks Lilly.” Iris doesn’t like climbing at all.
We pick raspberries in the bush behind the old barn and talk about some of the stories we have heard sitting around the campfire with our families and neighbors. Today, we are pretending these are the old days and we are out hunting for game on our own. Together we set up camp beside our tree house. Last summer, Iris’s Dad gave us boards and nails to fix the tree house. My Dad came over to help us put in a good floor. He also gave us old shingles and helped us make the roof rainproof. We even have a real window and a screen door. Now we can leave our stuff inside and it doesn’t get wrecked. The best part is that no one can see it from the main road. It’s our secret place. We put up a colorful banner that Iris & her Mom sewed.
Now we decide to build an Inukshuk. We learned about them in school. Iris and I carry all the flat rocks from the pile beside the field. I found a round one for the head. Some of those rocks were heavy. It took both of us to lift them but it’s finally finished so we sit and admire it for a few minutes, then decide to name it: ‘Doodlik’.
Iris found a set of antlers in the old barn and put them on Doodlik’s arm. Antlers or a piece of animal hide means ‘good hunting here’.
“Every time we come here from now on, Doodlik will welcome us.” Inukshuks are friendship figures. A messenger that welcomes visitors, hunters & guides them with signs. The pile of sticks we placed in front of Doodlik will tell visitors it is a good place to camp.
“I like that idea,” Iris says.
Now because we worked so hard, we are hungry and thirsty. Bright Sunlight is right on top of us. That means it’s lunchtime. Out tree house is still in Cool Shade so we climb in. It isn’t high up. Only two steps. I wished it were higher but Iris wouldn’t like it so it’s okay where it is…
It is nice to rest inside the tree house. Iris has brought some new fashion magazines that we look through while sharing our lunch.
Iris and I are best friends. After lunch, we stretch out on a blanket in the field and watch the clouds form into animal shapes. Some of them looked like ugly faces so I named them after the mean boys and we roll over laughing. That felt good as we finished the last doughnuts. For awhile we just talk…about anything…our favorite movies, songs, best scary books, good baseball games. I am really good at baseball and I can outrun the boys. Iris tells me I should just ‘whack’ them with my bat but she is tougher than I am. Mama says it’s probably enough that I carry it around with me. Like she carries a big scary stick when we go picking berries….”just in case…?”
Iris and I have so many ideas of what we’d like to be when we grow up. She wants to be an artist. I might be one too. I like to write stories and so does she. Maybe we’ll do both. I talk to her about things that scare me. She thinks it’s because I’m alone most of the time. Sometimes I cry when we have these talks. She never makes fun of me. The mean kids call me ‘Skinny Bones, Bean Pole & WORSE! I wish I had an older brother sometimes, but Iris sticks up for me when she hears them & they never fight her back!
Sometimes we share our family’s problems that no one even knows we know about. We even ask each other stuff about the Creator that we don’t want to share. If I don’t know the answer, I can ask Kokum, then tell Iris. Kokum knows many things about the Creator’s ways.
We take turns reading a favorite book out loud to each other. Iris doesn’t like standing at the front to read at school. I don’t know why. I tell her she reads really good.
Once Bright Sunlight has moved across the sky, we know we have to go home. We pack away our stuff & ride in opposite directions. Summer Wind helps me climb the hill and pushes me down. I laugh out loud, stretch my legs and enjoy the free ride! The cows in Mr. Smith’s meadow look all blurry black & white as I race past.
“HELLO COWS!” They watch me but keep munching grass and switching their tails.
Home at last.
“HURRAY!” I shout. “I know that car & truck! Mama never told me anyone was coming TODAY!” I speed through the gate as Shep barks and barks while racing me to the house! “I’m going as fast as I can!”
Two of my older sisters and their husbands are here from the city. They’re waving at me but I just smile because I need both hands to steer. Kokum is with them and comes to hug me. I have missed her so much. She says it’s only been a week?
Secretly, she tells me she is glad to be back where you can feel the rain and listen to what the sky has to say at night.
Tonight there will be a family gathering. I love it when everyone comes over. I want my house to be just like this one day. I run up the steps dying to see what my sisters brought me. But first, I have to wash up and set the table. Dad will make it bigger so we can all fit around it.
Supper is over and the kitchen is cleaned up. I put the clean dishes back into the cupboard.
“Thanks Lilly,” my sister Evie says then hands me a paper bag.
“You got me new jeans & a matching jacket! And more batteries for my flashlight! I am the luckiest kid!”
I give Lorna a hug, too. “New comics! All my favorites! How did you remember?Oh! More writing books & colored pencils!” I run upstairs to put my new things away just in case our sister Allie comes with their 5 kids!
The chores are done for the evening. Uncle Harry, Uncle John & Auntie Rosie are on their way with my cousins. Auntie Rosie is bringing her delicious homemade strawberry ice cream. We will enjoy dessert outside.
Dad starts the campfire as soon as they arrive and we gather around it. Uncle John & my Dad tune up their violins. My sisters sing along. My Dad always plays my Mama’s favorite waltz and she smiles and wipes a happy tear away. She told me one day while we were berry picking that song was their first dance together. I like that my Dad remembers things like that.
Uncle Harry gets into trouble with Mama for telling us jokes and scary stories. We laugh because it happens all the time.
Summer Wind is at our campfire, cooling our faces when we lean too close to the flames. Sometimes, the wood crackles and makes us jump as sparks sizzle straight up into the night sky! Dad points to them.
“LOOK LILLY! Those sparks are going all the way up and will be the newest, brightest stars in the sky tonight!”
Then he laughs at me. It’s dark but I know he winked.
We make a mess toasting gooey, sticky, drippy ‘marshies with crackers and chocolate sauce. Mama laughs and lets us have all we want but then hollers: “Don’t you dare go into my clean house like that!” She brings out towels and a bucket of warm soapy water for us.
Now it is late. My cousins have gone home. Kokum has hugged me after my prayers. It was such a fun day, I don’t want it to end so I will write it down and then read it whenever I get lonely for my sisters. My bed is so comfy. I look out at the stars .
“There REALLY are some that seem extra bright,” I whisper. Then I remember Dad’s wink.
My family are sitting out on the porch, talking and laughing. They will stay there for quite awhile. I love falling asleep to the sounds of their voices and the night birds. Shep is in my room tonight and is sound asleep beside my bed. I reach over & pat him.
“YUCK! Sticky dog!” Somehow, he got marshmallow goo on his fur. His tail thumps on the floor. Mama won’t notice he’s here until morning.
Summer Wind is blowing into my room. If Fresh Shower comes back, Summer Wind will blow the curtains across my face until I lower the window. Sometimes if i’m alone & Loud Thunder comes, it gets scary for me. Kokum will come and help me pray or think of things that take my mind away from the noises. I am happy that her room is across the hall from mine. Mama wants to fix her a room downstairs but Kokum likes it up here. She says she feels closer to the Creator, the stars & to me. Often at night we whisper together while the rest of the house sleeps. She says she has many more stories to tell me while she can still hear them speaking in her own head.
I am trying to write them down so I will remember them too. I listen even while she is silent. I can picture a tiny radio in her head telling her what to say. Kokum laughs because she knows exactly what I am thinking.
“AWE KOKUM!” She is just like my Dad.
Tonight as I fall asleep, Moon Beam and a zillion Star Lights twinkle softly. I have already planned more adventures for Iris and I for tomorrow after my family leaves to go back to the city. Mama told me not to be sad when they leave because my oldest sister Allie & the 5 kids are coming and staying for a week! Yikes! I have no time to be sad! I have to hide my best stuff in the secret attic behind my bed! But I am still happy they are coming!
I will take them to the tree house if it’s okay with Iris. It’s her tree house too. But she has 2 sisters & is really good at sharing. They will love it. We can have a picnic there and fly our kites. My room will be safe. Dad will help by letting them build things in his woodshop. We will have a campfire every night.
Tomorrow morning we will have a huge breakfast. Everyone will be talking at once!
“How do they do that?” I always wonder.
There will be bacon, fluffy eggs, fried potatoes and pancakes. Kokum will bake fresh biscuits and we’ll pile on homemade plum jelly. Mama lets me have weak coffee once in awhile with lots of milk & sugar…Maybe tomorrow. Then after a late lunch, they will leave for the city. I will take my new comics over to Iris’s & we will read them.
Right now, Summer Wind hums a night song. Although invisible, I know it is right here. It is always where I am.
I whisper: “Thank you, Summer Wind. Good night.”
I hear Sheps’s tail ‘thump’.
“Good night, Sticky Dog.” ***
A forever friend is: Someone you may not have seen for years & years, but when you do…you pick up right where you left off.
To Iris & our forever sisterhood. You inspired me all through this story then and the re-write now. Thank you for all the adventures we shared and the memories we created through our school years. This one’s for you. ‘Lainie’