A Senior Remembers: A Near Tragedy In Our Wellies

Wellies

Wellies (Wellington Boots)

Even before I open my eyes, I can hear my mother humming. She is singing softly, so she won’t wake us up,

“You are my Sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.”
And not only that. I can hear birds outside, chirping.
Right away I know it is going to be an exciting day.
I wake up quickly and slip out of bed. When I pass the open window, I can feel the air coming in, so soft and warm. It fluffs up against my cheeks as I peek out and hold my face up to the screen.

In the kitchen, Mumma is flipping pancakes, and the syrup is already on the table.
“Get everybody up,” she says, so I do. April is already out of bed, she never wants to miss anything, but June tries to hide under the covers. The baby is kicking his blankets off, and smiling up at me, but I don’t want to pick him up.
“You will have to wait, you little monkey,” I say, “Today is a special day for us, not you.” And then I feel bad, and pick him up anyway.

After we eat, Mumma tells us why she is so happy.
“Its spring,” she says, “It’s time to put away your winter boots and get your Wellies. So get going, you are going outside to play today.”
No winter boots, no winter parkas, no mittens or scarfs. Just our light jackets over our dresses—and our Wellies!

When June and April and I are outside, we don’t know what to do. Everything is different outside. There’s no ice to pretend skating on, no snow to pull our sled on, so we stand there for a while, looking around the farm.
“I can see green grass,” April shouts, and I start to cheer about it too.
“Shush!” June says, “Listen!”

We hear a bubbling sound, just behind the wind break

Then we hear it, a loud bubbling sound just behind the wind break, at the far edge of the garden. It’s the ditch!
June leads the way, like she always does, saying, lets see what’s going on! For a minute, we just stand there and look—the ditch is like a river, the banks are green with new grass, and in the ditch there are hundreds of dandelions. I feel a little shiver. Then June gets really bossy, like she is allowed to do, because she is three years older than me and five years older than April.

“It can be dangerous,” she warns, “So be careful. We are going to get as close as we can, so we can see the dandelions better, maybe count them.”
“Do what I do,” June says, as she puts one foot forward and follows carefully with the other, feeling her way along. She does this all the way to the edge, and we can see now, that the water is not so deep.
“Can we go in?” April asks. “I want to get some dandelions.”
I can see June is thinking this over. she wants to go in too, but she is smart and sensiblelike Mumma says, and she knows all of the rules.

“We’re not supposed to go in,” she says, “Mumma says we’re not allowed. We can’t swim.”
But she walks a little closer, and we follow her until we find a shallow part, and then we step in. I can feel the cold water against my Wellies, and I stand there for a minute, looking around, smelling the air, and listening to the water trickling. The dandelions are all around us, they are so tall, I can reach out and touch a hundred of them, right from where I stand.

“I can see them growing,” I call out to June, “I’m looking right at them and I can see them growing. And guess what, I can hear them growing too!”
“Don’t be so silly,” June says, but she can see what I am seeing. Where there were only a few hundred dandelions in the ditch, there are now thousands. They are growing so fast, I can hear popping sounds as they snap out of the grass!

We scream at April to stop!

But April is not looking at the dandelions, she is walking out along the ditch, into deeper water. Suddenly she yells that the water is over her Wellies! We scream at her to stop! Carefully we edge our way into the ditch, going further and further into the freezing water, where she stands, crying. We catch up to her and grab her hands. then drag her back to the shallow part, and up the bank.

We sit on a log, and take off her boots, one by one, and spill the water out. It’s ice-cold, and she is shivering and crying. We put our jackets around her and stand there for a minute, catching our breath. I bend over and put my hands on my knees, waiting for my heart to stop pounding.

“Let’s pick a few dandelions, April.” June finally says, “Ten each. Then we can stop in the shed and get some canning jars. For a bouquet.” By the time we get home, April is carrying a jar full of beautiful golden dandelions, and humming a little tune. It sounds a little like, “You Are My Sunshine.” June gives me her squinty-eyed look, with her lips pressed tightly together. I know what that look means. But she doesn’t have to worry. Mumma will never know.

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25 Responses to A Senior Remembers: A Near Tragedy In Our Wellies

  1. Wonder springtime childhood memory. Don’t we all have those stories that our parents are better off never knowing?

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      We were free-range chickens on our Northern Canadian farm. If our mother ever knew the things we did! Miraculously we all survived.

  2. P. Amon says:

    This is my favourite so far! Brings back memories of walking home in the waterfilled ditch along a country road, from our one room schoolhouse.. Inevitably our “rubber boots” were never tall enough!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      We got away with a lot of adventures then—fortunately our mother found out about very few of them! I also went to a one-room schoolhouse, and walked over a mile to and from the school each day. It was great during the summer, but miserable in the winter. Hope to write about the horse-drawn “caboose” that took us to school on the coldest days.

  3. Lynne Spreen says:

    Wow. When my first husband was about 21, he waded into a river to fish. He lost his footing, his waders filled with water, and he almost drowned. This wellies story reminded me of that. But on a happier note, I’ve been singing that sunshine song to my grands since they were born. They usually wince at my singing, but they know I love them.

  4. tammy j says:

    a treasure of a story. beautifully remembered and shared!
    thank you!

  5. Virginia says:

    I was with you for the whole experience. Thank you for taking me there. I was a bit wary throughout the reading since I was ready for a tragic ending, having missed the word near in “near tragedy”. But perhaps it’s because of a story my ex-husband told me about one of his many disastrous stays in Maine, visiting his father’s family, a city boy at the mercy of his country cousins. They took him fishing in a river, and somehow his waders got stuck in the mud – with him in them. I don’t recall the details but his getting free was a two-step process with him getting out of the boots before they could be extracted from the mud.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I think the name “gum boots” is so apt! The clay-like soil found in various parts of Canada (and Maine, obviously!), sticks to you like gum, with a propensity to suck you in! So glad he made it out!

  6. What a beautiful story! I could feel the soft breeze and hear the stream gurgling in the ditch. You have a real gift for writing dialogue. You and your sisters were lucky to grow up on a farm. I also lived “in the country”, far from town, but was lonely there because there was no one to play with, and my siblings were much younger. But I remember sitting in the woods listening to the birds and watching the squirrels and chipmunks. I still do that in the different woods where I live now! Thanks for sharing your memories!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      As you know, your childhood memories shape who you are—you have not lost that sense of wonder and appreciation of nature!

  7. Linda Bethea says:

    Oh you had me worried the way you built suspense. Loved it!

  8. worzelodd says:

    Great story, Dianne- we to were free rangers, only came in when out of dry clothes, used my little sister to check the ice on ponds and depths of ditches. Rusty nails, bulls, Ma did not know half we got up to- thanks for the memories.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I’m sure a lot of that is true, but I don’t buy the part about your little sister! We were so free—how did our own children become such ‘helicopter parents’?

  9. Your story reminded me of times when my brother and I explored ditches of water around the Saskatchewan farm where we lived as children. We waded into water daring each other to go as far as possible before our wellies filled up. I particularly remember one pair of black boots that had a small orange rim. It was a challenge to walk into the water up to the orange rim and no further. Unfortunately, there were miscalculations and horribly wet boots that never seemed to dry completely overnight. Thanks for bringing back these memories in your post.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I remember the ones with the orange rim! I also remember how, if worn too much, they would rub against the skin on our legs, causing a painful rash. Still, at certain times of the year, they were our favorite footwear!

  10. I’m glad it turned out so well! And the sunshine song is one of my favorites. I still sing it from time to time.

  11. Deborah Todd says:

    This is a wonderful story, thanks for making my day!

  12. Aunt Beulah says:

    Such a charming story filled with springtime and childhood. I enjoyed every word of it, and, having two sisters, related to much of it as well. Thank you for this gift.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Aunt Beulah and Deborah—so happy to have you two as readers! I try to include these stories at regular intervals, but feel the need to address some more serious topics as well. Thanks!

  13. Joared says:

    My anxiety level grew as your colorful description of spring evolved into hints of waters dangers. I was greatly relieved when a potential disaster was avoided but can imagine there were some frightening moments. I’m sure all were relieved. I wonder if the secret was shared with Mother after the sisters became adults as children sometimes do — long after the danger and concern about being chastised has passed?

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Thanks, Joared. No, I don’t think we ever shared that (along with the many misadventures I will eventually write about) with our mother!

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