Brome Lake, Summer and ME ! With Grandma all to myself (except for Aunt Rita: more later). No tale-bearing junior siblings to report my every move to Maman.
Picking strawberries, violets and buttercups, playing in the water by a sandy shore at the big cottage Grandpa rented. A well-water pump at the kitchen sink to make lemonade with and a real Electric Fridge to put it into – at home we were still using an icebox. A toilet you flushed with a bucket of water from the outside pump and flies, flies, flies!
On an afternoon so beautiful you forgot all about horrible boys, Miss Lucifer the teacher, nasty story-telling, superior girls whose hair always hung in perfect curls (ugh) … Grandma and I went berry picking.
Perfect days are never really perfect with me. There is always something. Like horseflies that really hurt when they bite. I hate bugs of all kinds. Grandma said: “Look, there is a spider’s web, put your head close to it and the fly will be afraid.”
Now, there is a typical adult solution to something. Like telling me horrible boys throw rocks at girls they admire and in a few years these dreadful beings would be bringing me flowers and candy and I would fall in love. Right. I would never become that old or stupid. I preferred horseflies.
As the same three horseflies kept landing in my hair – which was freshly washed and curled, I was getting pretty sweaty trying to swat them off with the hand not clutching my bowl of strawberries. I wanted to offer them to Grandpa for a surprise at dessert.
Grandma offered another version of the game “Dodge the Horseflies.” She said: “Hold your bowl carefully and when they buzz in your hair again, just put your face down into the grass and bushes”.
So I did. It was poison ivy. By dinner-time, I had little strawberry-like spots on my face and neck. Great. My hair nicely curled, a nice dress on, ready to go for a drive to Bonneville Beach for ice cream at sundown and watch the teenagers dance rock and roll to jukebox music, and I had calamine lotion in a shade of pink perfectly matching my dress.
Strawberry ice cream used to be my favourite and Grandpa asked why I’d picked vanilla, and I said “I think pink is a stupid colour, it’s for babies” Typical adults. They did not notice the calamine lotion connection.
Next day, to make me feel happier, Grandma packed sandwiches and a big jar of lemonade and chocolate biscuits to picnic and to swim at Bonneville Beach. She put a big umbrella over her head– I was afraid people would laugh at us – a kid in a red swimsuit and a pink face and an old lady under a big black umbrella on a sunny day.
I may hate boys but on that day, crabby and itchy, I saw the boy of my dreams. His hair was blond, his eyes were blue, he was clean and he talked politely in English to Grandma and me. She invited him to our cottage with his parents. He thanked her and said his mother had contracted poison ivy and would have to wait a few days before they could come. He left with our phone number for the cottage, saying his mom would call soon.
His Mother had calamine lotion! My heart skipped a beat: I fell in love – Fool that I was.