“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?”

“Who?”

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!”