It has been so hot that any potted plant I have outside that had a bloom is brown at the edges or dead, and the grass is scratchy and yellow in spots because it is so dry—and we are forbidden to use the hose. We are in water restriction, as Texans are every summer, but I am all for water conservation and “green measures,” in general, if only I could move beyond an irrepressible need for beauty—not that it’s not everywhere.
Last Saturday, at a birthday barbecue for a two-year-old, held, yes, in our friends’ backyard, where the air felt as hot as the grill our host was cooking on, the adults swabbed our melting faces and watched the children transform into seals, sleek imps that took turns going down the six-inch long “slide” in the portable—what my family has always called the--turtle pool because the original design must have been green with the creature’s likeness. In any event, the kids were mesmerized by a foot of water in a plastic tub, and the dog? He was having the biggest blast of all—biting the water stream that came out of the hose, during the frequent refillings, and jumping into the pool, immersing himself and then becoming a dog sprinkler, as he shook the water from his fur. Which, of course, made the hostess shoo the dog out of there, again, the kids screaming and laughing at the same time. Then, a newfangled slip-and-slide was introduced, and the new water game was a hit for ten minutes until something in its plastic design popped and the water pressure disappeared.
This summer, the week I was in muggy New Orleans, it rained three times, big thunderstorms, but during the last deluge, Alice’s younger son, Evan, and his friend found a blue tarp in the garage attic and made their own, more durable version of the slip-n-slide. They thought of everything: they soaped up the water, and rigged the hose to fall in a certain direction, and even put bags of potting soil and other objects to hold it down and bank it up. Then, they body surfed, squealing with a delight that Alice and I knew would soon disappear, as the boys were high schoolers and that kind of uninhibited joy would soon be relegated to childhood. But, for that moment, the boys weren’t too embarrassed to cut up, and Alice and I stood in the rain, watching them throw themselves into the game, behaving like the children we knew them to be in our hearts. Yes, they drove, had jobs and girlfriends, but for those seconds in the rain, the water had allowed them to be childlike again.