One week in April when I was 7, we encountered a long, continuous streak of thunderstorms. All the rain had put a damper on my outdoor adventures, and endless board games had left my younger sister, Liz, and me impatient. My mother’s nerves were raw from our bickering. Finally, the rain ended and the sun came out.
Barely able to contain our excitement, Liz and I donned our jackets and sneakers and made our way outside. With joy, we ran through the yard splashing in puddles, flinging our arms, and spinning in circles until we fell down laughing.
After a while, our eyes fell on the barren ground where the garden was to be planted after the final frost. My sister’s eyes met mine, and our internal juries returned their unanimous verdicts.
We snuck into the house, and each of us donned a pair of Dad’s good work boots, then crept back outside to the muddy plot. Shovels and trowels were forgotten in our intense need to play. We became absorbed by our “gardening,” so much so that we did not notice that the boots sunk deeper into the mud with every step we took. With a shriek, Liz pointed and exclaimed that mud was overflowing into her ankle-high boots. As the big sister, it was my duty to pull her out of this sticky situation.
I took one step toward Liz and sunk into the mud up to my knee. I was only able to free myself by abandoning one of the boots and stepping out with only my sock. Efforts to remove my sister from the mire resulted in another boot, this time from her foot, being abandoned. All of this took place while we balanced on one foot, before plopping into the mud where we howled with laughter.
A cawing crow brought my attention back to the fact that we now only had two boots where there had been four. The thought that they were our father’s boots, and that we took them without permission, also dawned on me. The idea that we could avoid a spanking by returning them unharmed drove me to attempt a boot rescue mission.
Liz and I worked our way out of our remaining sunken boots and headed for the house. We trotted inside, and I hurried to put on the last remaining pair of my dad’s work boots without being seen by our mother. We slinked back out to the garden plot and contemplated how to bring in the sunken boots. Finally, I resolved that I would have to go in with speed and gusto to remain on the top layer of mud. A brick wall couldn’t have slowed me down as I charged into the muddy mess.
My plan quickly dissolved as the mud ate one of the replacement boots. Before I could piece together the reason my plan didn’t work, the other replacement boot was off of my foot. Liz and I left all three pairs of boots in the slurry of clay and went back into the house, our heads hanging.
“What have you two mud sculptures been doing, playing in the pig pen?” my mother asked.
As I lifted my eyes to meet hers, I saw her amusement at our appearance. Unable to hide my guilt, I explained the situation and the failed rescue attempts. Mother peered at the garden plot, nodded her head, and took us into the house to get cleaned up without saying another word.
Worried and pacing, we remained in our room the rest of the day.
“Oh, man,” Liz moaned. “We must really be in for it. She didn’t say anything!”
“We’ll just have to wait until Dad gets home to find out,” I said. “But if we get a spanking, you are going first.”
A distant, deep-throated laugh interrupted our argument. A door slammed — and then silence. We stared out the window in wonder and gratitude as our grinning father went out to retrieve all three pairs of his work boots from the garden.
That day, we learned an important lesson: It’s more enjoyable to not take life so seriously that you miss the fun and amusement in some less-than-brilliant situations. And, for goodness’ sake, rubber boots and mud are experts of suction.
Meghan Leonard resides in south-central Pennsylvania where her own boots get muddy, and occasionally stuck, compliments of her backyard menagerie.