If I were going to draw a picture of Mimi, I’d do one of her at the clothesline. She loves hanging out the clothes. A bunch of times now I’ve seen her out there with clothespins in her mouth, humming away.
I haven’t offered to help. I don’t know why. Mom and I used to hang clothes together all the time, but I do like watching Mimi from my dormer window seat up here in my bedroom. That’s what I’m doing now.
It’s the morning after all the court caper stuff. ** “Caper.” What a dumb word. Way too jolly for what ended up happening.
I haven’t come down for breakfast yet today just because–just because I’m shy or something. Shy to start talking and stuff with Mimi and Pop.
So, I sit and stare. And remember.
Mom loved hanging the clothes. In fact, I have this sun-bright memory of something that happened a long time ago, I think even before we had the twins.
If this were a newspaper story, the main headline would be: “Four-Year Old Decides to Run Away.” The smaller print headline–the kind that’s right under the bigger one–would say, “Mother Hears News at Clothesline.”
Here’s what happened.
‘Bye, Mom! I’m running away now. I have a backpack full of comics. Mom is hanging clothes. I knew where to find her at this time of day because usually we hang the clothes out together. She has two clothespins in her mouth and is stretching to hang my favorite “blankie” on the line. She keeps one hand on the blanket and takes the clothespins out of her mouth while she looks at me.
Okay, Isabel, but first do a little job for me, would you? More clothespins? Under the sink in the mudroom?
I slip my pack off my shoulders and trudge into the mudroom. I bend over and drag the clothespin bag out from under the sink. My head is full of exciting thoughts. I can’t wait to get going. Dad ran away when he was four, too.
I hand the bag to Mom.
She smiles at me and adds another pin to my blanket so it won’t blow away.
I stare at the blanket like it’s hypnotizing me. It’s drying fast, I think. I put one arm through the backpack strap. It’ll be ready for my nap–if I was gonna be here, that is. Which I’m not. I shrug the other strap onto my shoulder and start to turn away.
Isabel? One more little job? Mom was shaking out my socks. Could you get me the little wooden drying rack? She smiles down at me from over the clothesline. I remember now that her face looked like a full moon peeking over a hill.
I drop my pack again and march back inside. I know where to find the little rack. I loved hanging my socks on it and always put it back in the mudroom closet when the socks were dry.
I daydream. Maybe I’ll cross the big road and go to the drugstore. I could sit on one of the twirling stools and spin around. I could get a sundae with no cherry and no sauce.
I find the little rack right where I put it the last time. I set it up in the sun next to Mom.
Just as I am about to leave, she says, One more little job? I slip my thumbs through the backpack straps, just to let her know this better be the last job. Do you think you would mind hanging the socks before you go? Hmmm? She looks at me.
I shrug and say, Okay, Mom. So, off with the backpack–again!
First, I pull the sock right side out. Then I shake it so the wrinkles smooth. Last, I drape the sock over the wooden bar so it hangs evenly. Mom tells me stories while we stand there working together. I am very happy that she’s doing this because I’m beginning to feel a little tired and hungry. I yawn as I curve the last sock over the rod.
Mom sees that I’m about finished. She says, I know! How about this, Isabel? Why don’t we go inside and have a little reading time? With a snack maybe?
I frown. I’m thinking, A little reading time sounds good, but what about the drugstore?
My Mom was a mind reader. She picks up the empty basket. Better yet, she says while she takes my hand, let’s you and I go to the drug store. We can sit at the counter while you have a sundae. No cherry? No hot fudge sauce? She checks on how I like that idea. Too tired for that?
Sounds good, I say. And maybe you could read me some of these? I shake the comics out of the backpack.
I’ll run away tomorrow–maybe, I murmur to myself.
I jump out of the Way Backseat of my memory and into the Front.
I lean out my window and call down to Mimi, Need help with the socks?
She waves and nods her head.
I’ll get the rack.