Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Keep Looking Up

Verena was such fun. The year she lived next door in Kabana, she and Shirley and I had high rubber boots so we could slosh up and down the hill between the front gate and our house. There were two seasons—one called “The Little Rainy Season”, and another called “The Big Rainy Season” when the skies opened and poured down for weeks. Magnificent lightning flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, and we imagined that furniture must have been moving overhead. Best of all was the constant heavy downpour of rain.

Our roof had been partially covered with corrugated sheets with thatch all around. Under this was a layer of “abojeta,” much like cheesecloth. This served to keep the thatch from falling on our heads, but would bulge and swell as the rain poured in. This called for as many pots and pans as we could find to catch the rain. Sometimes, it was possible to puncture an overhanging bulge, which was about to burst. Piercing the bulge with the sharp end of an umbrella prevented catastrophe. All this was made more challenging at night because we did not have electric lights. The rain flooded and paddled and made the mud road up the hill the perfect place to practice running in our knee high boots.

Sleeping with Shirley was painful for both of us and we decided a barbwire fence would help keep our sleeping “territories” safe.

One thing we all knew about my sister was that she would always wait until the split second before she had to go to the bathroom. The “two-holer” was some distance from the house. While we were in house there was the chamber pot, kept in the narrow room next to the bedroom where our family slept in two double beds. During one of our rainy seasons we were playing with Verena, whom we always called “Butzilie.” A large wardrobe had been built and placed in the one corner of the bedroom. There was a space above the wardrobe, and with the help of a stool placed on a chair, and Butzilie and myself holding all in place, we hoisted Shirley on top of the wardrobe. What fun! She could almost touch the “abojeta.” Suddenly Shirley started to dance. There was no way could she make it down in time; so Butzilie, always inventive, handed the chamber pot up. When my mother came into the bedroom, all she could see was Butzilie lying flat on her back. We were both laughing hysterically. When my Mother asked what was going on, Butzilie pointed upward and the whole situation was made even more hilarious when Shirley turning her back to us.

Shirley was destined for other high places. One day we were with Phyllis at the house next door that had a ten-inch wide cement shelf, such as might be placed over a fireplace. On this occasion, we decided that Shirley would be the perfect “Queen of Sheba.” She looked very elegant in her paper crown and a veil that was improvised from the curtain over the window; there she sat, a queen sit on the cement “throne”! Alas, the reign was short lived. The queen became tangled in her elegant “gown” and came tumbling down. It was lucky that, Phyllis’s father, Dr. Bergman, was available to stitch the Queen’s forehead. Once more, Shirley survived.

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