Someone says let’s write about water.

Water? I say. Why not the history of the solar system, or maybe some ideas about infinity? 

Water? It supports our life, we come from the water, it is our treasure, what we are made of, and die without. I rejoice in the rain and fog. I love ponds, and creeks and rivers. I thrill at stormy oceans, crashing waves. I fear deep water.

This is too big for me. Could we narrow it down a bit?

The city where I grew up is beside the Ohio River — the Ohio Valley Cauldron it was called. Storms were frequent, the humidity was high and summer days of 100 degrees were not unusual. By 10 in the morning it was time to close up the house, the overnight coolness of the rooms slowly being exchanged for the warm air that began to move the thin white curtains of the big windows.

You drank iced tea and sat on the porch watching the sprinklers which twirled around all the front yards on the block for most of the day, the kids in the neighborhood darting in and out of them. Folks hosed off the sidewalks at night “to cool things down.”

The porch was the gathering place for everyone when the kitchen was tidied up in the evening. There were wooden rockers, and a couple of camp chairs, and a glider with canvas cushions. The comfort of pillows was denied; they held the heat so there weren’t any. There was a little table where sat a pitcher of iced water, or maybe Kool-Aid for a treat. Fans were scattered about, a couple of cardboard ones from the local funeral home, and a pretty one of woven straw.

We played in the hose a lot, just being around water seemed to refresh everyone, and the cool stream that came from a rubber hose smelled and tasted special. (Only now do I know it was special; plastic hoses have no fragrance.)

But sometimes we would go to swim in the local pool, usually a Saturday when the grownups didn’t have to go to work, and I was allowed to ask a friend to join me. Such bliss for everyone! Inside the bath house there were rules printed up on a big poster, and we dashed first through a shower, then stepped gingerly into a little pool of treated water, afterwards pulling on our rubber swim shoes and dancing about waiting to be released by whatever grownup was in charge. Like so many penguins we slid in over the edge, the adults not far off, equally frantic to splash and get cool. I suppose someone had their eye on us, but mostly we were on our own. Kids were, then.

Eventually we were pulled out, teeth chattering, fingers and toes puckered and blue. “Once more? One more jump?” Huddled up in towels, we climbed shivering into the back seat of the old Ford; exhaustion and hunger kept us quiet. On the way home there might be a thunderstorm, there often was, breaking the heat for a little while.

The afternoon ended on the porch with an orange popsicle . . . trading half with someone who had a cherry one. Maybe it would still be raining; sitting on a porch protected from a storm is a good thing.

My thoughts range from the oceans of our blue planet whirling in space, to the last watery drop on the popsicle stick.

— Jeanne Hewett