The evening brings a warm summer breeze that brushes my hair about my sweaty, dirty face. I am five, and my sisters and I are dancing and screaming all around our new backyard because it is moving day. The brownness of the dry grass, no running water, or working lights does not deter us from celebrating the day.
Before this, the summer is a difficult time for my parents; they struggle to take care of us. We lost our home back in May. We are living like a pack of sardines in my parents' station wagon in grandma Dela's backyard. A fence of bright yellow, orange, and red cannas surrounds her Victorian house. Even the beautiful flowers that tower over our heads can not prevent us from covering our noses when the wind changes from the direction of the outhouse in her backyard. We are so happy because our new house has an inside bathroom.
This summer, Daddy leaves before the sun comes up and returns before dusk from the grape fields. On a good day, he brings home a pile of dusty grapes in his lunch pail for dinner. Mommy gathers them to wash, my mouth waters in anticipation. Sometimes, when our parents are not looking, we put the sour yucky ones in our pockets and have a grape fight in the backyard after dinner.
Often in the early evenings after dinner, I hear Daddy whistle for his dog, Sooner. He gathers his wheelbarrow and poking stick and heads down the alley to collect bottles, cans, and other junk for recycling. Sometimes, I watch him fade off down the back alley, while Sooner follows close behind, wagging his big yellow bushy tail.
The night before the big move, Daddy gathers the whole family to talk to us. But before we all sat down, mom sprays us with the water hose to cool us down from the day's heat.
"Mom and I have a surprise for you tomorrow morning," Daddy announces.
"Daddy, hamburgers?" I yell out and hop up onto my knees.
"No, something better," he whispers, smiling and winking at Mommy.
Nonie cries out, "I know, I know! It's milkshakes and hamburgers for breakfast!"
"Yeah, burgers," the three-year-old twins, Zimmy and Immy squeal.
"Let's all go to sleep. You'll see in the morning," Mommy responds, while opening the car door for us to crawl in and go to sleep. I toss and turn, as the sweat rolls off my face. I watch the stars twinkle in the distance while our mother fans air across our faces as we drift off to sleep.
"It's time to wake up kids. It's Saturday, and it's moving day!" Mommy yells out.
We all shout, "What?"
Mommy jumps on us and shakes us awake, "Kids get up!"
"No, close your eyes and cover your heads. I'm driving us to our new home," Daddy announces from the front seat.
The car slowly moves forward, and then he drives us around and around as we all roll back and forth on the folded down back seats.
"Daddy, I'm getting dizzy," I cry out.
"Me too," the twins giggle as they roll across the back of the wagon.
"Mommy, I think someone did poopy!" Nonie whispers.
"We're here! You can look, everyone," Daddy announces.
"We didn't go nowhere," complains Nonie, our oldest sister, as she looks out the front window.
"This is our new house," Mommy cries out.
"Yay!" We all yell, jumping up and down in the car as it jiggles from side to side.
"Settle down! You'll pop a tire!" Daddy demands as he let out a boisterous laugh that fills the station wagon.
It was the end of July, Daddy finally rents the old house next to Grandma. However, we have no running water or lights, but we didn't care. Nevertheless, we celebrate the moving day by running back and forth across the lawns, carrying our stuff to our new home.
Mommy lays out Grandma Dela's blanket from Mexico for our picnic across the kitchen floor.
Grandma's blanket had a thick woven texture and a plaid print of bright red, yellow, and green. The three-inch fringe that lines the edges tickles my toes as I roll on it.
We eat a picnic of warm milk and pb&j sandwiches on the floor. My sisters and I run, roll, and wiggle across the kitchen floor, filling all the rooms of our new home, with the echos of our screams, laughs, and giggles.
"Nonie put your face on the floor. It feels good." I giggle.
"Yeah, it feels good," she yells back.
The twins soon smush their faces on the floor too. Zimmy licks the floor to get the last bread crumbs off the floor.
"Zimmy, stop that! The floor is all dirty," yells Mommy from the kitchen sink, while she washes dishes.
"That's nasty," I shout.
"Yeh, naty," Immy repeats after me in her baby talk.
"Everyone get back on the blanket and finish your lunch. Then it's time for your naps," orders Mommy.
After lunch, my sisters and I spread out over the big blanket. We all put our heads near the kitchen screen door. Our sweaty hair sweeps gently across our faces as we all fall asleep.
After our three or four hour nap, Nonie and I go out to the back yard to play. The dry grass crunches below our shoes as we run around playing tag. A game of hide-and-seek soon follows. The down-turn branches with brown leaves provide hiding places in the flowerbeds.
Mommy borrows our grandmother's water hose to wash clothes by hand in an old washtub and hangs them on the bent wire clothesline. A line of white diapers waves across the yard.
"Kids, keep your hands off the clean clothes!" Mommy shouts as we run through the hanging clothes above our heads.
"Mommy, Mommy! Can we get wet with the hose again? Our little sisters are asleep on the blanket by the back door." Nonie begs as she hugs Mommy around the waist.
"Yeah, Mommy, we are hot and sweaty. I feel icky all over," I add while wiping the sweat from across my face with my dingy t-shirt. Smudges of jelly, peanut butter, dirt, and sweat, drip down in streaks on my belly.
"Okay, but you and Rosita do it quietly. I don't want you to wake up the twins," she whispers as she points to my sister to give her the hose. With that, she squirts our faces. We put our hands over our faces to keep from giggling out loud.
She turns around and continues to finish the wash near the leaning clothes hanger with the bent poles.
The heat of the day soon gives way to the evening as the sunsets on the big blue horizon. We are both clean and dry, while we eat our second picnic dinner of crackers, grapes, and welfare cheese, on the back kitchen steps.
After we eat, Mommy pulls a clean sheet off the clothesline for us. Nonie and I roll on the old yellowed sheet. An evening breeze pounces upon us like a cat. We huddle together to keep warm on the grass. Our shrieks of laughter hover above as we pull and tug to keep our fortress. Our giggles gather in strength as we struggle to defeat the wind from pulling our sheet up into the starlit sky.
Through a hole in the sheet, I spy Zimmy and Immy running out the back door. They race outside in a furious trot, the screen door slams close. They hop on top of us laughing and giggling.
Nonie and I chase the tots around the yard as we turn into the "sheet monster." With a sudden halt, we all fall on the crunchy grass.
Nonie yells, "I'm the tickle monster. I'm going to get you."
We all grab and tickle each other as we roll all-around and scream like monkeys.
"Stop! Everyone! Look at the big moon," I shout out as I point to the sky.
We fall back into the warmth of the sheet.
"See that big twinkling star over there by the moon? That one is mine," I whisper to my sisters.
Nonie says, "I'll take the moon because Mickey Mouse says it's made of cheese. "
The twins say in unison, "We wha cheese too."
"I'm hungry. I wish we had some cheese," I whisper again.
"Try to go to sleep. Daddy gets paid tomorrow after church. I'll tell him to buy us more cheese," Nonie assures us while she tucks us in.
"Crackers too," I say as my voice fades into the night.
In the distance, I hear Mommy calling Daddy to come outside. The screen door squeaks open as he comes out. Daddy makes his way to us and bends down on one knee. One at a time, he picks us up. He puts Nonie over his big left shoulder and me on his right.
"Hold on girls," he whispers.
We both place an arm around his big wet prickly neck. He smells of cigarettes and musky sweat from cleaning all day. He picks up the twins like hot dogs, one under each arm. He stands back up as he turns and follows Mommy into our house.
"Daddy, cheese, and crackers," Nonie murmurs.
"Yeah, Daddy moon cheese," I echo as I grab tight to the hole in the back of his t-shirt and kiss his neck.