Our family once had a tent that reminded me of those seen in a circus. My Dad found and claimed it at a flea market. We groaned when we saw it and asked, “What were you thinking?”
He grinned and said, “It was a great deal and we can invite the relatives!”
Invite them we did. Grandmothers. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. If memory serves me correctly it could sleep forty. We might of had that many too, when you threw in our own family of eleven.
Dad sat that gaudy contraption up in a field and it bloomed alongside the creek like a rowdy flower. It seemed even the trees gasped.
By day we flipped and flapped in the creek, laughter peeling through trees. When tired of that, we’d slather our skin with a concoction of baby oil and iodine and lye on hot rocks to further brown our skin, which usually ended up blistered and angry red.
In the evening were icy Cokes, and sizzling burgers, smoke from the grill swirling, twirling and exposing our hidden oasis. We’d eat exhausted but joyful among a custard of whir and buzz, the high easy call of birds on the wind.
When sun and moon traded shifts, whippoorwills clicked on, spiking air with lonesome, haunting melodies. A bonfire sprung up, fire in the sky, everyone gathering round with twigs whittled on ends to accommodate fat marshmallows. And then, Mom, fretting at little bold ones, lighting theirs, red coal fire sticks, zipping and chasing, sparks flying. Meanwhile, the old folks sitting mesmerized in lawn chairs, cheeks infused with fresh color, eyes twinkling and full.
Later came the hair-raising ghost stories, fire popping and snapping, darkness so black and voices real or imagined whispering through trees. When kids were good and frightened it was time for bed.
The adults blinked right off, but a certain sister and I couldn’t. Like pushpins in sleeping bags, we didn’t budge. An owl hooted outside the tarp and we’d stiffen, our eyes round as coasters. A snap of twig, we’d shiver and cling. And then a brother or two slinking around outside, making bizzare noises as if we weren’t petrified already. Inside the tent were odd snores and aroma’s; a funky humanity mixture ripened by night, yet oddly comforting, new and old, different and the same all in one spot at one time in time.
That gaudy circus tent; another shiny bead added to the necklace of memory.
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