Rain from thunderstorms filled the rain barrel at the base of my grandmother’s trailer. A steel metal drum rested on cinder blocks under a rainspout beneath her bedroom window. An aluminum spouting ran the entire length of her pink trailer, catching droplets that hit the tin roof over the living room, carrying the precious liquid element to a place in her front yard, just yards away from a vegetable garden. She used a recycled coffee can to carry water from the barrel to the garden that she tended to every day. She poked holes in the bottom of the can with a nail.
Running quickly to her flowers with that can, she flew up and down rows of cabbage scattering her captured showers, days after the rain had fallen. She worked from sunrise until it got too hot, always watering in the morning because “plants like it like that,” she explained to me in the manner that grandmother’s toy with the imaginations of those in the next generation– “Did you hear God moving furniture last night?” she asked as I carefully scooped dead bugs and moths from atop the water in the barrel as our supply slowly depleted.
On June mornings, on my way from the old farmhouse, running past the chicken coop on a path in the yard where my bare feet had carved a brown trail, I’d stop to pick up a mulberry or two. I was always careful running though the green grass of the yard, avoiding white patches of clover where yellow jacket bees were known to be. The pain of their stings was like that I had ever known—in between my toes a little stinger one day was planted. I screamed at the top of my little lungs– running all the way to Esther’s trailer. I squished mulberries between a space in my bite where a tooth had been lost, happy that day I did not get stung. My frail body quivered at the rush of purple sugar from a mouth full of mulberries. I didn’t bother eating around the little green stem they each had. Cold rain water trickled over the top of the barrel. I was tempted to jump in, but it was too cold. Instead I put my face in first, holding my nose, proving to myself that I could swim. Into the rain barrel I splashed my arms up to the elbows, rinsing my hands mostly clean of the purple stains. I knew not to touch Esther’s polyester pants when I got inside and hugged her leg. She made us cups of instant coffee despite what my mother had said about how chatty it made me.