Friday, July 6, 2018

Barbie's and Blue Skies

The stiff gray carpet is hurting my knees but I don’t notice. It’s that outdoor carpet that is rough and tough to handle muddy feet, so it’s leaving tiny indentions all over my chubby little knees. It’s also making it difficult to keep the floor lamp upright, but that could also be from the chipmunk hole underneath the carpet.

Beside me is a yellow and red suitcase with Big Bird on the front. Behind me is a hard lavender one with an image of a curly-headed blonde carrying a suitcase that looks just like this one. It is empty and turned upside down, the contents spread out in front of me.

It’s warm and sunny but I’m wearing my teal, Minnie Mouse raincoat and matching rain boots, just in case a sudden downpour hits and the men need my help covering up the kindling. Dark brown ringlets are piled up on my head with my favorite lace ribbon. Sitting under the canopy, I watch the other kids run off to the playground. Its dirty there, and the slide gets covered with wet sand that I cannot handle. Plus that slide is too high for my liking. Jordan broke his arm this past spring when he fell off the slide at school, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about being on one.

I pull the yellow suitcase closer and unload the rest of the living room furniture. The picture on the front of the TV is damp and wrinkled from getting stuck to my rain boot. Hopefully it dries out flat. I pick up Courtney and sympathize with her frizzy curls. The only way it looks good is up in a ponytail, so I decide to leave it. I find her favorite pajama’s, 50’s style, white with red polka dots, and put them on her. She looks cute in those so it is okay her hair is frizzy. The ugly, mustard yellow bathrobe goes on Barbie, but only because I know my mom made it in high school and I don’t want her to know I don’t like it.

On the other side of the tent, I hear my Nannie getting out the pans and the cooktop. We eat dinner foods like fried chicken and spaghetti at lunchtime when we camp, so that we can roast hotdogs at night around the fire. My aunt walks across from her campsite to see if we need more ice for the cooler. They are going to the bait shop to pick up a few bags.

The bait shop has delicious soft serve ice cream, chocolate and vanilla twist. I know that they will take me with them if I ask, but I don’t.  Talking to people isn’t my favorite thing; in fact it downright scares me. I’ll pass on the ice cream. Besides, Barbie just ordered pizza so I need to get Ken ready to deliver it.

I stay on the rug for hours, until Nannie tells me to go ride my bike for a while. My bike has new pink and purple streamers so I ride up and down the drive a few times. I can see Poppie scooping my dolls, the furniture, and their clothes back into the suitcases and I know he’s mixing everything up. I’ll have to organize them later, but I should have known riding my bike was a trick. He sits the picnic table on the rug and Nannie serves our lunch plates and makes me take off my raincoat. I was getting kind of hot anyway.

After lunch we go out on the speed boat. I hate the life vest because it covers up my face and I feel like I can’t breathe. But I get to sit in the front and the breeze feels good. Water splashes up on me and it’s cold but it feels good, too. When Poppie stops the boat, I climb up the back seat and jump in. I swim over to the ladder and Nannie lets me take off my life jacket for a minute.  Pop teases me that the fish are going to bite off my toes and I laugh. No way would a fish do that. As I tread water I consider that a shark might and I wonder if there are sharks in this lake. If there were, Nannie wouldn’t let me swim, would she? Better safe than sorry, I climb up the ladder and wrap my Little Mermaid towel around me. My bathing suit has a ruffle around my waist and it makes me feel like a baby.

In the glove compartment I find a pair of Poppie’s sunglasses and put them on. Nannie is laying in the front, sunbathing, so I stretch my towel out on the back seat and lay down to bake like her. Poppie turns on the radio to a country station and watches the other boats go by. The waves rock our boat and before I know it I’m asleep.

When I wake up we are docked and we have to walk back to the campsite. Nannie gets our shower bags and towels and I change into my shower flip flops. Down at the bathroom we wait for someone else to finish. There is a bench to sit on but there are spider webs with flies on them so I stand. Finally it’s our turn. Nannie tells me to step in, undress, then hand her my clothes. She reaches in and turns on the water then hands me a washcloth. I scrub my hands, feet, and elbows, strategically standing in the very middle of the shower because there are spiders and bugs on the walls. The rubber mat beneath my flip flops has holes in it and I wonder if a spider could craw up on my feet. I scrub faster and hand my wet washcloth out to Nannie. She gives me shampoo and conditioner mixed together in one bottle and I wonder why we only use that while camping.

Once I finish, I carefully dress in sweatpants and a t-shirt, trying hard to keep my clean clothes from touching the floor. Nannie showers next and I stand looking in the mirror at my hair wrapped in a towel on top of my head. Maybe when I take the towel off my hair will be a different color. That shower water could have a chemical in it. My hair could be orange or green. I contemplate that while Nannie finishes.

The sun is setting and someone has already started a fire when we get back. We drag our chairs over and I sit in front of Nannie while she brushes and braids my hair. Poppie made us hotdogs but he put ketchup on mine. He always forgets I like it plain. I scrap the hot dog on the side of the paper plate and am grateful he remembered I don’t like relish. My lawn chair is long, so I stretch my legs out and put my plate on my legs. I eat quickly because I know that marshmallows are next. Another relative brings over his guitar and starts strumming songs. He plays a song called “There’s a Tear in My Beer,” and I think he made it up because it sounds so strange to get tears in a beer. But I’ve heard him sing it so many times I know all the words. Everyone thinks it’s funny when I sing along with him.

The sun is completely gone and the stars are shining brightly now. I lay my chair back so I can see them all and I try to count them. Every time I get to 20 I lose track of the ones I’ve already counted. Pretty soon my eyes start to close and Nannie takes me to the tent. My bed is a blowup mattress with my sleeping bag and cuddly blanket on top. She zips me up in the sleeping bag and goes back out to the fire. I can still hear it snapping and popping as I drift off to sleep.

This art I originally made for my planner is sized for an A5. Feel free to download one for yourself here. A high-res print is available through my shop on request. This is for personal use only. If you want to get one for a friend, that's cool, just please don't distribute without checking with me first. This cannot be sold or altered without permission. xo, courtney