FUN AND laughter flowed through the country home of our grandparents. It was the summer of 1965. School had closed. Just like all the summers before it, the children of our grandparents' sons and daughters had been promptly dispatched to Virginia. During the next three months, our numbers would fluctuate between 12 and 15.
From the moment we arrived, our grandmother, Mother Sydnor, delegated chores with the vitality of a boot camp sergeant.
One particular Wednesday afternoon that I recall was no different. All but two chores had been assigned. Netta, my cousin, and I stood patiently waiting. We were both 12 years old, but Netta was skinny with a chestnut brown complexion and a button-like nose. I, on the other hand, was much too fat with hair that was much too short and a complexion that was much too red to be considered cute. She was the cute one, and she knew it.
"All right girls, one of you sweep inside the house and the other one will sweep the yard," instructed Mother Sydnor.
Instinctively, we knew which task was best suited for the other. Netta was the outdoors type who liked to feel the warmth of the sun. In contrast, my red skin couldn't tolerate long periods in the sun.
Like any good sergeant, Mother Sydnor knew her troops. "Icey, you sweep inside," she said. Suddenly, I felt a ball of rebellion swelling within me. Using my syrupiest voice, I whined, "But Mother Sydnor, I want to sweep the yard." Heads turned. Mouths dropped. Had I gone crazy? I can't explain why I wanted to go outside, but the look on my face made it clear that the request was genuine. With a wave of Mother Sydnor's hand and one word, "Fine!" I was dispatched to the yard. I had won!
Once at my designated post, I mentally divided the yard into sections similar to a football field. This was very appropriate since it as about the size of one. I scored imaginary touchdowns every time I swept from the back of the house to the road. My 30-second breaks were taken at the 10-yard lines. After about the third touchdown, I started envisioning Netta effortlessly gliding across floors. I could see her dancing about the cool house with the broom as her partner.
At that instance, I realized that she had the better job. Had I gone crazy? What had caused me to want this awful job?
When I caught Netta looking out of the kitchen window, I threw my head high and plastered a moon-size smile on my face. She stormed away from the window more upset than ever. "That will show her," I thought. I had won again, or had I?
Icey A. Joyner writes from Baltimore.