Here’s a piece I wrote the second summer after losing my mom. It’s a true story, but don’t tell Dad.
Pearl’s sister broke out the cherry wine somewhere between the juice boxes and bologna sandwiches.
“Dare we?” Sherry asked.
Pearl hated wine. So did her sister.
Pearl cut a sandwich in half for her 3-year-old while sending a shocked yet pleased look over his head to Sherry.
“Let’s just open this wine and try to learn to like it,” Sherry said, unearthing a corkscrew from the back of her junk drawer.
They were both 33-years old and neither adept at cracking open a bottle of wine.
“We’re pathetic,” Pearl said, snapping the cork off half in the bottleneck, half out.
“Give it here.” Sherry poked the remainder of the cork into the bottle and watched it float before pouring two glasses in plastic wine glasses. Sherry’s was neon pink, Pearl’s grassy green.
“Cheers!” The plastic thudded in an unsatisfying way. Their four children, (two to each) cousins, dirty from running in the sprinkler, tan from a summer of no shirts and no school, ran in the yard. Their sandwiches spoiled, untouched, in the 90-degree heat.
This is when the giggles started. Neither of them could tolerate more than a few swallows of the sour cherry wine. Pearl spit hers, with much fanfare, into the burning bush at the edge of the deck. From their chaise lounges, they laughed.
“What’s so funny, Mom?” asked Sherry’s oldest. He was the ringleader at age 7 and the self-designated etiquette police.
“Nothing, honey, nothing.”
“Just boozing on a Thursday afternoon,” Pearl whispered in a stifled giggle. The sisters had, until this very afternoon, lived a prim and proper life. They’d grown up in a little town, never got very drunk or very pregnant until they got married, lived less than 5 miles from the home they’d grown up in, had good jobs, good kids, good families. They’d never dreamed of getting drunk on a Thursday afternoon.
Pearl dumped her wine into the yard, giving up on gagging it down.
“I like where this idea is going, but I can’t do it on wine,” Pearl said.
“We could run down to the gas station. I’ll watch the kids, you go.”
Even this made them laugh. A beer run on a pretty summer day while the kids played in the yard?
“No, you go, I’ll stay.” Pearl liked the idea of getting drunk, but already it was too much work.
“Wait,” Sherry said. “Dad’s not home.” The words were an open invitation to the booze he kept in inventory in the garage fridge.
Dad, in fact, was 2,000 miles away in Montana on another vacation with his new girlfriend.
“Fieldtrip!” Pearl belted out to the children, who came running. Sherry’s house was a mere mile from Dad’s. By cutting through the woods, they could be there in 5 minutes.
In 15 minutes, they not only had the alcohol, they had hijacked his four-wheeler from the pole barn.
In 25 minutes, Sherry and Pearl had each finished their second drink, and had 4 children, themselves and the remainder of a 6-pack balancing on the ATV’s gun rack. And they couldn’t have been more tickled with themselves.
“Wait till dad realizes his booze is gone!” Sherry squealed.
“We’re too old to get a whippin!” Pearl whooped. She hugged her sister around the waist like they used to when they were 10 and rode behind their dad. Back when things had been much simpler.
“Mom,” whined Sherry’s boy again, “you’re squishing me!” The pesky children were encroaching on their fabulous time.
“Just don’t fall off,” admonished Pearl, shushing the children, who held onto the gun rack while trying to pull leaves off passing trees. “Here, fuel up,” she tipped a drink into Sherry’s mouth.
In 45 minutes, they’d traveled as far as they dared with the four-wheeler. Only to arrive, as if by fate, at the trampoline.
“Drinking and driving do not mix, but what about jumping and drinking?” one of them called out. Sherry thought this idea was hilarious, as did Pearl. The children looked at them in wonder.
In 50 minutes, tricks and small competitions were unfolding high in the air above the trampoline.
“Slut!” Sherry yelled as Pearl attempted the splits.
“Mom! That’s a bad word!” Again, the eldest. They started calling him Buzzkill to his face.
“The guys will love this.” Sherry tried a backflip, landing face first, but alive.
In an hour, the kids were unhappy and Pearl and Sherry were very, very happy.
“You’re ruining our fun!” the children bellowed. There was a general consensus that 33-year-olds were too big for trampolines. TWO 33-year-olds were downright dangerous.
“Then go, off the trampoline!” yelled Sherry. Pearl got the giggles thinking about the neighbors watching from a distance. The twins had commandeered the trampoline.
The two oldest children started to cry because they wanted the trampoline back. The two youngest started to cry because they wanted their mothers back. Pearl and Sherry poured another drink over ice in their plastic wine glasses and marveled at how they’d never thought to drink their sorrows away before now. It was the closest they’d come to having fun since losing their mother. It seemed even better that the good times were unfolding on her trampoline, with drinks from her fridge, under the shade trees she used to share all summer long with her girls.