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Sweet Tea Conversations

We had no air conditioning in our house, central or otherwise, and we relied on the square window fan placed in the bottom half of the window to cool us from the heat and humidity of the Indiana summer along the Ohio River. The head of our bed pushed up against the opposite wall under the second of the two windows in the bedroom. Through the metal screen the breeze, artificially manufactured by the Sears Roebuck window fan, cooled us ever so slightly.  It was not unusual to find our pillows positioned side by side on the interior windowsill lying head to head so both of us equally shared the small relief from the heat by the simulated breeze.  Head to head, we chattered quietly, recapping that day’s activities and calamities. Hushed giggling mingled in-between the child like conversations as our voices traveled from that bed, out through the window and across the lawn to where two silhouetted figures engaged in their nightly ritual of conversation, cigarettes and iced tea. The humidity hung languidly across the Ohio River and our parents escaped the heat of the small house to enjoy each other’s company absent their daughters. With their backs to us, they struck an interesting pose on the expanse of the lawn bordered by maple trees, rose bushes and a solitary weeping willow sitting squarely in the middle of the back yard.

My sister and I unsuccessfully attempted to participate in the outdoor conversation, but were always reminded that we were not welcome. “You two.”  Mother said with impatient emphasis. “Go to sleep.”

Our parents ignored our continued attempts to connect and refused to answer the frequent questions we shot at them through the window screen.  Under the moonlight, we saw smoke curling upward in the lighted darkness and occasionally heard pieces of their conversation, often catching the sound of our very own names among the exchange. We eventually drifted off to sleep listening to the hushed tones of our parents’ voices, in synchrony with the tinkling of the ice cubes against their tea glasses.  Our heads and bodies, damp and clammy from the humidity and close proximity, turned away from each other as we took up residence on our individual pillows. The humming of the white noise of the window fan eventually became the only sound within the house.

We quietly and innocently ended the day only to begin the next, growing up Strange, in the Midwest, in the fifties.

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