“Just go in your underwear!”

“Just go in your underwear!”

I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. Clear, jolly and amused by our lack of ingenuity. No bathing suits? Just go in your underwear. In the early 80s, this was the answer to most water play dilemmas. Truth be told, it is still my first response when a child arrives at my home unprepared to be wet. I channel the woman who never lacked common sense.

A bathing suit isn’t a necessity. Plans aren’t a necessity. Dirt is necessary. The sprinkler is necessary.

My grandmother would place the sprinkler on her small, rectangular patch of Southern California front lawn. We would run until the wet was down to our bones.

There wasn’t anything as good as that feeling. Stringy hair in our eyes and pools of muddy water around our feet; pushing one foot down until you could only see your ankle.

My grandmother was inside doing…something. Or nothing. We never knew. Sometimes, sandwiches would magically appear.

We’d make elaborate mud pies with the tin plates she’d given up on. If you wanted to know which special event you were celebrating, you had to count the rocks on your pie. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8! Happy 8th Birthday!

Time moved like partially solidified honey and it was just as sweet.

At night, we’d run around the back porch, a blanket draped loosely over our backs and tied with those thin, red rubber bands all grandmothers kept in their junk drawer. We were still in our underwear; dried mud on our feet.

They had a few glasses of Wild Turkey on the rocks in the evenings. My grandmother’s leg resting on a small table. They would chat and laugh and observe. We were clearly their world, but, we weren’t their entire world.

We slept on the floor on carefully arranged couch cushions; the lilac air freshener doubling as “monster spray” protecting us as we slept.

At 6:00 a.m., I would hear her slippered feet in the hallway. At 6:15, the smell of her coffee entered the room before her. Folgers.

When my children tell me they hate the sprinkler, I wonder how it is possible that my deep love of those summers wasn’t transferred genetically.

“Don’t you want to hear about my summers with Grandma Marylee?”


I wonder how it is possible that my deep love of her wasn’t transferred genetically.

She would pass by my tousled hair peeking out from under a blanket on her way to the back porch; her coffee in hand, ” Are you up? Do you want to join me for coffee?”

After she drank her coffee, we’d start all over again.

“Grandma, I don’t have a bathing suit!”

“Just go in your underwear!”


  1. Denise Manning says:

    Grandmother’s are the best. <3

  2. This is so beautiful. I am there with you in the sprinklers with mud up to my ankles, time moving like thick honey. I especially love this observation: “We were clearly their world, but, we weren’t their entire world.” Yes.

  3. This is perfection. (Do I start every comment on your blog that way?) I can see it all clearly because I was there. Well, on the other side of the country, but in underwear and ankle-deep sprinkler mud.

    My kids aren’t so into the sprinkler either. Honestly, I think they just don’t know how to play in it. Last year they sort of got it, but had always hated it in previous years. We’ll force it upon them when they’re all together. “Oh, you want lunch? Not until you’ve had FUN in the sprinkler. I said FUN! Now GO AND PLAY!”

  4. This sounds like the perfect kind of summer to me–so miss the simplicity of those older days. And this, “We were clearly their world, but, we weren’t their entire world.” makes it clear that it was a win for the adults too. Wonderful all around.

  5. reminds me of summers with my gramma in texas. sprinklers and playing jacks for hours. and dinner at luby’s cafeteria. those summers really were the best.

  6. Every time I read your writing, I sigh with contentment. Love you.

  7. My grandmother’s no-nonsense love was one of my greatest blessings. I think of her often when I’m struggling with a decision, and I wonder if she was guided by good sense, or if she looked to her grandmother for guidance, too. I hope to be someday gifted with grandchildren to keep me company while I drink my Folgers.

  8. Love, love, loved this. Wish I was there. Sounds beautiful and perfect.

  9. Beautiful. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. 🙂

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