Up The Creek


Spring, Texas 1981


In fifth grade Life Science, I sat next to Ginger and Janet, and it did not take long before the three of us discovered a mutual interest in Stuart Scarborough. Stuart was a quiet, baby faced boy, with a natural tan, brown wavy hair, and ruddy cheeks, who wore nicely pressed Oxford shirts, rolled up to the elbow. I stared at the crisp center pleat on the back of his shirt and wonderingly imagined his mother, who cared enough to iron school clothes. After I told Ginger and Janet that Stuart rode my bus home, and lived a short bike ride away, we found ourselves planning a sleepover at my house. 

The Friday night they came over, we closeted ourselves in my bedroom, giggling and plotting how we would make Stuart aware of our interest without risking rejection. Writing love notes and leaving them somewhere on his property seemed at once daring, yet safe. Ginger and Janet got right to work, pouring their hearts out on lined notebook paper. Having given them my two pens, I found a pencil and adapted a poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson to suit my purpose. Then without delay we hurried to his house at dusk and stealthily planted the notes in a hanging basket swinging from a tree next to the mailbox before running away, hearts pounding with fear of discovery. The accomplishment of this daring deed provided enough delightful entertainment for me and I secretly hoped Stuart would never find the evidence of our girlish interest. 

The next morning we needed a new adventure and settled upon swimming. However, the neighborhood pool was closed during the school year. We changed our focus to packing a picnic, but then it occurred to me that we might go for a swim in the creek. When my mother heard this discussion, she vetoed it with unusual vigor, warning us to stay far away from that snake infested creek. Seeing the crestfallen faces of my girlfriends, I asked if we could still have our picnic, but foolishly planned to go to the creek and swim anyway. My mother looked relieved and let us go. We slipped away, with our bathing suits and towels stuffed into the picnic basket, skipping merrily down the wooded street. 

Our house sat on the edge of the flood zone so the lots in front of us remained a forest that became our playground. My brother and I had explored the woods until we knew all the paths and shortcuts, most leading to the creek where the action was. My favorite spot was beside a muddy “island” that only became an island after a heavy rainfall. This was the destination of every walk in the woods, and it was no surprise that we ended up there.

The water tumbled along, about two or three feet deep, and clear enough to see the sandy bottom. We found a group of saplings standing in a tight circle and tied our towels together around the slim trunks to make a dressing room, where we changed into our bathing suits one at a time. That business taken care of, we enjoyed the water, splashing and jumping until we felt it was time to eat. Then I glanced back into the water and saw a brown and yellow water moccasin floating downstream. Suddenly pierced with guilt and a tinge of fear, I suggested we go back to the house. 

On the walk back we laughed and joked, feeling we had outsmarted my mother and the snakes, but my mother met us in the yard with a fierce look. “You have been swimming in the creek,” she omnisciently stated. Ginger and Janet looked at each other soberly and went into the house to pack their things, while I stood in the yard and got chewed out. “Do you think I am stupid?” my mother hissed. “I can see that your hair is wet.” She darkly promised doom as soon as my friends went home, and I lived in dread for several days, but she must have chosen to forget about it and she certainly never told my father, because I never suffered a consequence. 

Several weeks later Stuart approached our desks before science and tossed three intricately folded love notes upon them. “My mom found these when she was watering the plants,” he explained grinning. The other girls’ notes were indecipherable after being watered, but my note, written in pencil, remained perfectly readable. 

My knees melted into the hard plastic chair and I lost all power of speech, but Janet laughed and said, “It was a joke! Ha ha!” Ginger laughed in agreement and nodded vigorously, while I smiled weakly, all insisting that it was just a joke and a dare. 

Stuart went on to say, “I thought so.  My mom said, ‘These are for you. I think someone has a crush on you.’ But I thought it was probably a joke.” We all laughed in relief and let it go at that.

© Being Fruitful, 2012