I don’t know why I remember my mother and grandmother waxing the floor of her house in the summer heat. They always chose to wax my grandmother’s hardwood floors in the sweat-soaked dog days of summer. I remember lying in my bed cocooned between the cool sheets listening to the quiet refrain of songbirds doing their morning vocal warm ups. Inevitably, my peace would be punctuated by my Granny’s harsh whispering to my Mom, “Edna, you better get these young’uns up, so we can get started.” “I know Mom, I know,” my mother would exasperatedly sigh.
On hearing their conversation I would delve deeper into my little nest of covers and attempt to plead with the morning light to allow me more time to sleep.
Silence would ensue for a few fleeting moments then the annoyed scratching of a broom would start across the floor, followed by the protested groan of a plastic mop bucket being forcibly removed from the closet. My Granny would begin muttering to herself as she swept the house as my mom would come into my room, “Sabrina get up! I’m not telling you again, you know how your grandmother is,” then she would spin on her heels and leave. I would wait until I heard her walking away roll over, stretch, and yawn as the clatter in the kitchen grew louder and louder.
After sitting on the edge of the bed for a few moments trying to regain my bearings I would pad softly on bare feet into the kitchen. Where the morning light would hit my eyes and then I would see it, up on the chipped and well-worn counter. The mocking face of the cheerful blue bottle of Mop & Glo. It was as if the light filtering in from the window was spotlighting his majesty and telling me to bow down to his mighty power and that he was going to rule today.
From behind me a voice said, “Sugar, are you hungry? I saved you some breakfast.” Granny always saved me a plate from breakfast, but I rarely ate it. Even at that tender age I had already developed my life-long pattern of skipping the morning meal. I just shook my head in response and made my way into the living room to join my younger brother watching Saturday morning cartoons.
However, this reprieve was quickly shattered by the impetuous whispers of my petite grandmother, “Edna, we are going to have to get these kids out of this house if we are going to get this done.” “Mom, I know!” my mother would say yet again and the irritated footfalls of her form would turn towards the living room. “Kids, will you please get dressed and go play outside?” “But mom can’t we finish watching these shows they only come on once a week?” we would helplessly this plead knowing what the answer would be. “No,” she would say with finality, “and don’t ask again.”
Begrudgingly I would drag myself to my bedroom and rummage through my worn overnight bag to find something suitable to wear outside. Glancing out of the window I would see my little brother mouthing truck noises and dragging sticks around in the front yard. A slight breeze would tickle the curtains and my hair with the promise of burdensome humidity on its way. As I would get dressed the screech of the screen door would draw my attention to the soft plunk of my grandfather’s walker settling onto the grey-worn planks of the front porch. “Easy Daddy be careful,” my Mom would say in a child-like tone to him. Grunting the dark wood of the rocking chair would accept his fragile weight as he sat down. “You just enjoy watching the kids, ok?” and he would reply to her mutely with a nod.
After getting dressed I would emerge from my little room and be blinded with the luminescent sheen of an ever-encroaching gloss. The hardwood floors were mutating into deep rich hues of burnt umber and caramel inviting me to be wrapped up in their warmth. Alas, the impatient and urgent whisper of my grandmother would nudge me, “Sugar, get out outside and watch after your brother and Papaw for me. Now don’t come back in until we tell you to, go on now.” Carrying myself to the front door I would peek back over my shoulder to witness my Mother scrubbing the floor with a vengance and wiping sweat from her brow.
Opening the screen door I would reawaken the screech, step outside, and take up vigil next to my statuesque grandfather overseeing the play of my little brother.
Papaw would grunt and point to get my attention to the little birds fluttering near his climbing rose bush. “They are pretty little things, aren’t they?” I would quietly acknowledge his effort at communicating with me smiling. Satisfied that I had understood him he would settle back into his observing my brother wrapped up in his own world of play. Already bored with being locked out of the house I would lean against one of the pillars of the porch and wait.
Click-swish, click-swish the repetitive sounds of that yellow foam mop would drift into my ears while a creeping car would pass by on that dead-end road my grandparents lived on. The morning seemed to be lasting forever for once and my eyelids would grow heavy with relaxation and the yearning to be stretched out like a lazy cat in the window.
“Mom get out of my way!” the hiss of my Mother’s tone would startle me awake, “I can do this faster if you will just go sit down somewhere.” “Well I am just trying to help,” Granny would huff and snort as she made her way to the front porch. She would drag one of her russet orange chairs off the wall, unfold it, and plop down with a disdainful sigh. “Clyde don’t you get too close to road, you hear me?” she would chastise my little brother as he was running around in at the edge of the yard. He didn’t pay attention as he seemed oblivious to her fussing. “I don’t know why she won’t let me help,” she would say turning to me frustrated, “maybe I need go back in and see what she needs.” “Just stay out here Granny and enjoy the morning with us,“ I would reply hoping to keep her still long enough to allow my Mom time to finish up Mr. Mop & Glo’s polished chore. Papaw would pat the arm of his rocking chair to get my Granny’s attention and point to the birds again. “What?” she would ask staring at him, “Oh the birds, yeah I see ‘em. They better not get on this porch and leave a mess for me to clean up again.” Laughinig under my breath I would just shake my head and roll my eyes to look out after my brother.
Mom would finally come join us on the porch dripping with sweat running in little rivulets down her face. She would sigh as she settled into her own chair, “I am glad I got that done before it became any hotter.” We would all sit in peaceful calm for a few moments then Granny would start up out of her chair saying, “I have to go empty those mop buckets.” “Sit down!” my Mom would order her, “I will get to them in a few minutes you will just hurt yourself.” Obediently Granny would sit back down and play with a paper towel she always seemed to have in her hand.
After a few minutes I would slip off the edge of the porch to meander aimlessly around the corner of the house to the back porch. “Watch out for snakes Sugar, you hear?” Granny would call after me. “Yes, Granny I heard you,” I would quickly say because she said this to me and brother any time we ever took a step outside. Climbing the single stone step I would peer through the screen door into the kitchen to admire the glint of the dancing light on the floors. Oh they appeared so perfect and new! I wanted nothing more than to glide across them in my sock feet and pretend I was an ice dancer twirling to the music playing in my head. It was a secret desire that no one knew about but me and in this moment, I could feel the fluttering fabric cascading around my tiny form. The self-imposed wind from my twrilling would send my hair flying like dandelion fluff and…
“Clyde, quit digging that hole!” my Mother’s battle-weary voice would shatter my daydream. She then turned to my grandfather and asked, “Daddy do you want to go for a ride down the river?” “Yeah that sounds like a great idea!” my Granny would excitedly pipe up. “Kids come on and get in the car we are going for a ride,” my Mom would call out to us. “Oh, I better go in the house and get my purse,” Granny would say as she jumped up to run inside. “Mom, you are just going to have to leave it. We just moped and waxed, remember?” “Oh yeah,” Granny would murmur in reply, “Sugar! Where are you?” I knew she was hollering for me, but I hated the idea of leaving my secluded place of dreams. “I’m here,” I would sigh as I came back around the corner to the sound of the careful plops of my Grandfather’s walker coming down the plywood ramp. He would grin at me and point to my Mom’s fuchsia berry colored sedan, “I know Papaw I’m coming!
“Sugar!” Granny’s voice would again ring out loudly as a church bell on Sunday morning, “Come on!” “Mama, she is right here!” Mom would grumble to her as she supported the slow ascent of my Papaw’s progress down the ramp. “Won’t this be fun?” Granny would chatter as she ushered me and my brother into the backseat of the car. My brother Clyde would still be making his truck noises as he held onto his matchbox cars and drove them across the sill of the window. He never seemed to be affected by anyone or anything around him, he just lived in his own private world. “Buckle your brother up, will you?” Granny would ask me as we settled into our respective spots. Gasping for breath mom would sit down behind the wheel and buckle my Grandpa in. “Edna, do you think the floors will be dry when we get back?” “Yes Mama,” she would reply as she shifted the car into reverse and draped her arm across my Grandfather’s seat to look back, “Now sit back, be quiet and enjoy yourself.” Granny would drape her own arm around my shoulders and the ever present paper towel would be near my right ear as she smiled down at me and giggled. “You kids be looking we might just see us a deer or something!” then Granny would gaze out the window just like a child with anticipation on Christmas morning.
I would look back over my Grandmother’s arm to see her little yellow house fading into the distance. In my mind I could hear Mr. Mop & Glo laughing lording over his domain and lounging in that delicious light of the summer morning. “I will be back soon Mister,” I thought to myself and I will try out your sheen for myself. Until then I knew I just had to settle in and enjoy my ride down the river with the rest of the family.