This is one of my first stories, written into my booklets I often made when I was about 12-13 years old. Dad had nicknamed me ‘Summer Wind’ because I was training to enter races at our Harvest time picnic. I never stopped running, ‘like the wind’, he told me, for that entire summer. This story was one of my treasures that Mom had put into my trunk & hid in our old attic, knowing I would come back for them one day. It has been published in Indian Life Newspaper, in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada where I used to live. I hope to make it into a mid grade children’s book of 2800 words, soon. I would like to get some of your honest opinions on this. It is a repeat in some parts from a previous blog post, but this is the manuscript, word count, age appropriate 32 page version. As a child, I wrote it exactly the way it all happened. I feel like I could just go right outside, and ride my bike to my friend’s house, as Summer Wind, again.
“Summer Wind, It’s going to be a scorcher out here today,” says Dad, wiping his forehead. “Your Mama will be able to fry an egg on the front porch!”
“WHAT?” He winks at me. “Oh, Dad! You always say stuff like that!” In my head, I can see Mama cooking our eggs on the front steps.
It is early in the morning but already Bright Sun feels hot. I pick up the watering can and stare up at the never ending Prairie Sky. I see the trail of an airplane so far up there, I can’t even hear it. “Thank You, Summer Wind,” I say. I smile as it blows fresh air on my face & neck while I help Mama water the thirsty vegetables in our garden. “I know you are there, and I wish I could see you, Summer Wind, but you are invisible. You make me smile when you touch my face. Bright Sunlight and you make good partners for helping our garden grow.” I am in a hurry today so I try to water my rows quickly.
“Slow down,” says Mama. “You’ve missed some of the carrots.” She fills my can again.
After my chores & breakfast, I feed my Border Collie, Shep. He will find a nice place in Cool Shade and sleep all day while I am gone, until he hears my bike coming down the gravel road. He will meet me at the edge of our driveway. If something new is happening at our house he will bark & race ahead of me. He likes to win at racing too.
Mama has packed me a lunch to share with my school friend Iris and then I will ride my bike to her house about a mile away. “Bye, Mama,” I wave as I push through the gate. “Thanks for our lunch.”
“WAIT! You forgot your jacket!”
“Awe, Mama! It’s so hot,” I tell her. “Dad says you could have fried our eggs out here!” She shakes her head & points to the sky behind her. I toss my jacket into my carrier and peddle as fast as I can before she finds something else for me to do. Suddenly, I do notice that everything is quiet along our country road. the birds have stopped singing. Summer Wind gives me a push as I climb the first hill. I see Mr. Stefan’s truck coming towards me. I wait at the side of the road. He slows down and waves as he passes.
“Going to pick up the mail. Better hurry before it rains on Big Boots,” he tells me pointing to the sky. Big Boots barks his ‘Hello’. He loves riding in the back of Mr. Stefan’s truck while Summer Wind blows his fur in all directions. Little Dust Shadow follows them over the hill. I remind myself to look both ways before getting back on my bike. Mama says it’s a good habit, even on our hardly travelled road.
“WOW!” I holler when I look up at the clouds. “Dark Cloud is quickly moving my way! It is going to drop Fresh Shower right over my head before I can get to my friend’s house!” I grab the jacket Mama made me bring. “How does she know these things?” I stand up and peddle, happy our lunch is in my plastic back pack and won’t get soaked.
“I wonder if Loud Thunder and Speeding Light will come next?” I peddle as fast as I can, using one hand to pull my jacket over my head, just as the drops start.
Summer Wind is blowing stronger. “Come on, Summer Wind, push me faster!” I keep hollering: “FASTER! FASTER!”
I cannot peddle as fast as Fresh Shower is dropping drops. Dark Cloud has pushed in front of Bright Sunlight. Creator heard Mama when she prayed for Fresh Shower to send more water today. “Thank You, Creator, for helping Mama grow our vegetables.” I keep blinking the raindrops out of my eyes. “And thank You for not sending Loud Thunder & Speeding Light while I am on the road!”
My friend, Iris will be happy for me today. She loves Loud Thunder and Sky Storm, but I wouldn’t have come over and we have big plans for today.
“Hurry back, Bright Sunlight. You have to dry my clothes!” Shiny puddles are all over the road. My tires make ‘squishy’ sounds as I crunch up my legs and ride through them. Summer Wind has slowed down. I am closer to my friend’s house. The birds are starting to sing now that Fresh Shower is slowing its drops. Slower…Slower…Slower… Plop! Plop! Plop!
I see Iris’s place ahead, just one more small hill. Dark Cloud has moved to our other neighbor’s farm where the mean boys live. Bright Sunlight is free again & makes Raindrops sparkle wherever they landed. Spider Web’s Lace is spread across Wild Flower’s petals. I think of Kokum’s fancy white tablecloth. Summer Wind makes Fresh Shower’s perfume smell nice. That reminds me of my Grandmother, too.
Iris is waiting for me. Her Mom hands us a bag of freshly made doughnuts to take along. “Thanks, Mrs. Stefan.”
“You’re welcome. Have fun girls!”
We can’t wait until lunch. We both eat a doughnut on the way while we have fun riding all over the road trying to hit the puddles. Summer Wind chases us as we speed up through them.
“YIPPEE!” “WOO HOO!”
“Look, Lainie! No hands!” Well I can’t do no hands, but I am so skinny, I stuff the doughnut into my mouth and stretch my arms around my legs and put my feet up on the handle bars.
“HA! HA!” Iris cannot do THAT!
We are not even peddling as we race down the hill. As much as we try to pass each other, Summer Wind keeps us even. We turn off and go down the bumpy trail to our tree house. First thing we do is fly our kites in the open field. Summer Wind twirls, spins & pulls them higher and higher. “WHOA!” Mine drops to the ground. Then Iris’s kite gets tangled in a tree 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 doesn’t like climbing.
Iris nods. “Do it.”
I unfold my camp knife and cut it. The kite hits the ground. “Is it wrecked?” I ask as I climb down.
“No, it’s okay, Lainie. Thanks.” As we walk along the edge of the field, we pick Raspberry Reds. Dad taught me how to make a perfect red for water color painting by crushing raspberries through Mama’s strainer & adding just enough water. I taught Iris how to make it too, so we collected a cupful each. It was hard not to eat them all.
From listening to our parents and Elders story telling around the bonfires in the evening, we have heard great stories. So today we are pretending we are living the old traditions and are surviving on our own. We make camp beside our tree house. Last summer, Iris’s Dad gave us the boards and old shingles for a roof. He helped us build it. It is strong and safe. Our Mama’s both said it had to be that way. It even has a window & a door. We can leave our stuff in it. Nobody can see it rom the road, especially the mean neighbor boys. This is our very own place. Iris and her Mom sewed us a new banner. We hang it on the pole and put more stones around it. Summer Wind waves it for us.
We are building an Inukshuk. We learned about them at school. Iris & I carry all the flat stones we can find from the pile beside the field. Some are really heavy. We choose the best round one for the head. Our Inukshuk is almost as tall as we are. We name it: ‘Doodlik’. We are thirsty and take a rest to look at Doodlik for a little while. “Every time we come here now, Doodlik will be here to welcome us.”
“I like that idea,” says Iris.
An Inukshuk is a friendship figure. It is also a messenger who welcomes visitors and hunters & guides them with signs. Inside the old barn, we found a set of antlers & we hang them over Doodlik’s arm. That means ‘good hunting’ here. We gathered a pile of sticks and dropped them beside Doodlik so visitors would get the message that is was a safe campsite. Iris and I worked hard until Bright Sunlight was over our heads. Lunchtime. We climbed the short ladder to our tree house. It isn’t very high but that’s okay. It stays nice in Cool Shade. Iris brought her new magazines and we read them while sharing our food. After we rest in the grassy field and watch White Clouds turn into animal shapes while we finish the doughnuts. We are best friends. We talk about everything. Our favorite shows, best creepy books, good baseball games. Sometimes we share family problems too.
We both have so many ideas about what we’d like to be when we grow up. Iris wants to be an artist. I might be one too and we both like to write stories. I tell her why I get scared sometimes and about the mean names those awful boys call me. She sticks up for me when she hears them and never makes fun of me. She asks me other stuff about the Creator that she is shy to ask anyone else. If I don’t know, I can ask Kokum. She knows many things about the Creator.
We read out loud to each other. Iris hates to read in front of the class. I tell her she reads really good. Once Bright Sunlight has moved to the other side of the sky, we have to leave. We pack and then go in opposite directions.
Summer Wind helped me climb the hill and pushed me down so fast, I laughed out loud. I stretched out my legs and enjoyed 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 on their grass and switching their tails. Home at last!
“HURRAY!” I shout. I know the car and truck in our yard. Mama must have been keeping it a surprise for me! As I turn in the driveway, Shep barks out the news and races me to the house.
“I’m peddling as fast as I can!” Both my older sisters & husbands are here from the city. They are at the porch waving at me. All I can do is smile because I need both hands to steer without hitting their vehicles. Kokum is with them and comes running to hug me first. I tell her I missed her so much. “It’s only been a week,” she says. Then whispers in my ear that she is glad to be back where she can feel the rain and listen to what the sky has to say at night. I know exactly what she means.
I drop my bike and run to see what my sisters brought me. Tonight we will have a family gathering. I love it when everyone is at our house. I want one just like this when I grow up. Dad has put the extra boards in to make the table bigger so we can all sit around it. I have washed up and set the table. My cousins will come with Uncle John who will bring his violin. Auntie Rosie will bring her delicious home made strawberry ice cream for dessert.
Once our supper is over & the kitchen is cleaned up, we plan for the evening. I help put the dishes away and feed my dog.
“Thanks for helping,” says my sister Evie, then hands me a bag.
“Brand new jeans! Two pairs! I am the luckiest kid today!” I open the bag from my other sister. “Oh boy, new comics! All my favorites! Books and paints too!” I give her a hug. “Thanks, Lorna!” I run up stairs to put my stuff in a safe place for later. Just in case my sister Allie comes with their FIVE kids!
Dad builds the crackling bonfire for us. Dad brings out his violin and Uncle John and him play. My sisters & Kokum sing along. Our Uncle Harry gets in trouble with Mama for telling us jokes & scary stories. Us kids laugh because it happens every time.
Summer Wind is around the fire, cooling our faces when we get too close. Sometimes the wood crackles & makes us jump as sparks sizzle straight up into the night sky. Dad points at them and whispers to me: “Those sparks are going all the way up to be the brightest stars tonight.”
“REALLY?” Then he nudges my shoulder and laughs. “AWE DAD!”
While we have a sing a long with the grown ups, we make a mess toasting wieners, and then S’mores! Gooey, sticky, drippy marshies with crackers and chocolate sauce. Mama lets us have all we want but then warns: “Don’t you go in the house like that!” We wait for her to bring towels and warm soapy water.
It is very late. Mama hugged me after my prayers and sent me upstairs to bed. It was such a fun day, I didn’t want it to end. My bed feels extra comfy. Moon Beam & a zillion Star Lights twinkle softly. I look out at the sky and whisper: “There ARE some stars that do seem extra bright.” I think of Dad and clunk myself on the head. Shep’s tail thumps on the floor beside my bed. He likes company when I can sneak him up to my room. I reach down to pat him. Mama won’t notice until morning.
“YUCK!” Somehow there’s marshmallow goo in his fur. My family are still out on the porch, talking & laughing. They will be there while I fall asleep listening to the different sounds of their voices. I’m glad Kokum lives with us now. Her room is across the hall. Mama wants to fix her a room downstairs but Kokum says she feels closer to Creator and the stars from up here. I know she does it so that I’m not scared or lonely when Loud Thunder & Sky Storm comes. When we are whispering together in my big bed after the house is asleep, she tells me she has many more stories to teach me while they are still playing loud in her head. I am picturing a little radio with the sound on and then I hear her laughing into the pillow. “KOKUM! You are just like Dad.” We both laugh into our pillows.
I am so sleepy but I am making plans for tomorrow after everyone leaves. Iris and I want to make a path to our tree house with flat rocks. Mama told me not to do my sad face thing, when my sisters leave because in a few days my sister Allie & the kids are coming…FOR A WEEK! I might take them to the tree house but I will ask Iris if we can have picnics there. It’s her tree house too.
Then they won’t get into my room when I’m not watching.
I know she will say yes. She has two sisters and they share everything. She told me I’m not a selfish kid, when I mentioned that I get heck from Mama for not sharing my room. She just said it’s because I’m alone a lot. I really do like it when they stay.
Gerry, Iris, Louise, Shannon & Robbie. (He is the worst!) He draws mustaches and beards on my good posters! And I can’t slug him because he’s smaller & he’ll tattle on me! Mama will take his side. Louise breaks all my crayons but that’s okay. She doesn’t do it on purpose, she just presses too hard. Baby Shannon sleeps in my old crib still in the corner of my room. She wakes up so happy and I give her a stuffed animal to play with. Gerry, likes to be with my Dad in his workshop. He knows where my secret hiding place is for my comics. Iris and I stay together. I will have two people named Iris at the same time. I am actually their auntie but I always wish we were all brothers and sisters.
Summer Wind hums a night song. I whisper: “Thank you, Summer Wind. Good night, even though you are invisible.” Shep’s tail makes a ‘thump’. “Good night, Sticky Dog.’
“Lainie! Get that dog outside right now!” I fly out of bed!
Shep has already scooted down the stairs. The table is loaded with bacon and eggs, toast, pancakes and Kokum’s fresh warm bannock. Mama usually shares her coffee with me, with lots of milk & sugar in it.
All through breakfast, everyone is talking at once. “How do they do that?” Once I asked Mama how she can concentrate & she smiled and said:
“Years of practise. You’ll understand one day.” Whatever that means.
A FOREVER FRIEND IS: Someone you may not see for years & years, but when you do…you pick up where you left off.
TO Iris , my forever friend. You inspired me through this story. We were together the summer I first wrote it, by flashlight under my blankets. For all the adventures we shared throughout or school years & for always having my ‘back’. Love ‘Marlainie’
Thanks for reading this special post of mine. I have a couple more posts almost ready so I will be back soon. Happy March! It’s a week old already. I love the comments and I am trying to respond to them all. They really encourage me so Thank You!
Love & Blessings from: Memory Lane