I asked Pretty to join me on our screened porch last night a little after 9 o’clock. Pretty who had had a stressful day putting out fires she didn’t start, didn’t hesitate. Ok, she said as she began to move outside with me. That’s one of Pretty’s best characteristics – she’s never afraid to switch gears – she’s always willing to humor me when I make a gear switch. I guess that’s really two exceptional qualities, but who’s counting.
Today is the summer solstice, I reminded Pretty, it’s the longest daylight of the year. I wanted to enjoy it with you, I said. Look, it’s almost 9:15 and just now getting darker.
Pretty exclaimed with enthusiasm – oh you’re right. I’m so glad you suggested the porch.
You can blame this on the frogs
While Pretty and I talked on our porch last night, I tried to explain to her what was going through my head on this first day of my 74th. summer. The sounds from our porch were connected to the sounds of my earliest memories of summer when I slept in a small double bed with my maternal grandmother while a cheap oscillating fan turned slowly from side to side as it valiantly tried to cool us in the hot humidity of an East Texas heat a thousand miles away from South Carolina, a heat that would not be relieved by opening every window on the porch where we slept or the random whisper of cool air from a small oscillating fan made by Westinghouse. The sheets were always clean but never actually cool.
I never trusted the sheets anyway after discovering a scorpion hiding between them one night.
But it was the sound of the frogs around our pool here on Cardinal Drive – particularly after a rain – that drew me to those hot muggy nights of Grimes County, Texas where I was raised. My grandmother’s wooden house made from a retail catalog blueprint had many design flaws, but its one awesome feature which had nothing to do with the design really, was the magical pond (or tank, as we called it in East Texas) behind her house.
The tank was the focal point of my only-child imagination play stories during the day, but it was the tank’s music of those summer nights I hope will never be erased from my memory. Specifically, it was the frogs, or bull frogs as my grandmother used to call them just before we drifted off to sleep. The low guttural sounds were always behind the house and were somewhat subdued until every light was turned off at night. But then, those frogs got louder and louder until they hit a mighty crescendo. My grandmother and I laughed out loud when we heard them.
The frogs who live in our backyard on Cardinal Drive are rarely as raucous as the bull frogs in my tank in Richards – I think they are smaller frogs. But occasionally I hear one of those loud guttural sounds looking for something, probably safer water supplies, and I am transported to different days. To a grandmother who guided me with her wisdom – now to a woman who loves sharing another summer solstice with me.
I was blessed with a loving eccentric family who in the end gave me what they could – so much more than I realized. Today I stand with the Poor People’s Campaign and their national Call for a real Moral Revival to discover a soul within ourselves that will move all people to address the intersection of poverty, systemic racism, social injustices.
One of the co-founders of the movement, Reverend William J. Barber II says, “In the long arc of human history, there are moments when the universe itself groans and declares, ‘It’s time.'”
It is, indeed, time. It’s also summertime and contrary to the Gershwin hit song from Porgy and Bess, the living is definitely not easy for most of our fellow citizens who continue to demonstrate in our streets or elsewhere. Keep the faith. We must do better.
Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.