First Flight with Chaos 1 and 2

by Jeanette Cain

More articles in People

Is there anyone out there old enough to remember (apart from myself) the days when even the best little town had more dirt roads than paved streets? Or when houses were built approximately three feet above the ground with a long front porch, a swing, and the coldest metal lawn chairs ever made? Now, to borrow an intro statement for this little story from Sophia of the "The Golden Girls:" Picture it: Durant, Mississippi, 1959.

A sickly four-year-old child does not have much in the way of excitement. Most of my time was spent watching and listening to those around me, either from the front porch swing or the bed that seemed like a mountain to climb up or down. I listened to the whipporwills and to the crows that communed with the scarecrow. The most enjoyable part was to watch the squirrels run up and down the trees surrounding the front porch, except for one with a bad attitude and who barked at me mercilessly. If only I could move that quickly and with such energy! But, in the midst of my grandparents house were two uncles who were always creating some chaos for my grandmother to undo. She yelled, they sulked, I listened and watched. Fortunately, I stayed out of their paths, most of the time.

It had been raining this particular morning keeping me from my usual front porch swing nap. Grandmomma had used her 'brella (that translates "umbrella") to collect eggs from the hen house. She had propped the 'brella outside the kitchen door and then began to do her daily routine. I climbed down from the bed as the familiar sounds of her kitchen came to life, which is when I spied her 'brella. Yes, she had told me never to play with certain things and one of those certain things was the elusive 'brella. No, today I didn't heed her warning. Maybe I was feeling adventurous or naughty, either way I was doing exactly what I had been told not to do.

I grabbed that 'brella and ran to the front porch. I knew I'd be safe for a time since she was busy in the kitchen. I knew that that 'brella could open up, but I couldn't decide how grandmomma so magically made it come to life. That's when the two chaos uncles came upon the scene. They knew as I did that the 'brella was not to be used by me as a plaything. I knew I was in trouble. Maybe they weren't THE BIG TROUBLE, but I knew they would tell on me.

Had I been older, and naturally wiser to the ways of the world, I would have been suspicious of their sudden generosity and kindness. The lesson I was about to learn, as with all lessons learned from experience, would not immediately be forgotten.

Uncle Chaos No. 1, "Looks like ya found out how me and Uncle Chaos No. 2 learned to fly. You know we use that 'brella to go to town when we need to get away."

I said something like, "You can't fly! Nobody can fly! You don't got wings!" I still can't decide whether I was yelling because I was angry with them or whether I was excited about the thought of being able to fly.

Uncle Chaos No. 2, "Thank we oughtta teach her how to fly? Maybe she's still too little."

My answer, "No, no, I not too little! I wanna learn to fly!"

In my mind I imagined being able to go anywhere and everywhere I wished. Hmmmmmmmm...

Uncle Chaos No. 1, "Well, here, let me show ya how to open the 'brella." I watched as he pressed this little silver knob, when, wow, the 'brella popped open! Magic, absolute magic, and they were going to teach me their secrets.

Uncle Chaos No. 2, "Now, what ya do is put the handle in this hand (I now know it was my left hand) and with this hand (yes, the right hand) you have to pump up and down real hard and fast to get up 'nough speed to take off."

Uncle Chaos No. 1, "Yeah, if ya too slow, ya won't be able to take off."

" I can do it! I can do it!" This is where I practiced pumping that 'brella up and down as quickly as I could.

Uncle Chaos No. 2, "Thank ya ready to try?" Of course I was!

Uncle Chaos No.1, "Come over here then." He was standing at the edge of the porch, which was three feet from the ground, but for me it was like looking down from a mountain top. It was scary, but I wanted to fly! "Ya need to start pumping real hard to work up some speed, then when ya doing it as fast as you kin, jus' jump off the porch and ya'll be flying!"

Did I ever pump hard and fast. I was going to fly with the birds and I was going to visit that squirrel that barked at me.

I jumped while pumping hard and fast, but I hit the ground. "Why can't I fly? Ya said I could."

Uncle Chaos No.1, "Ya not doing it fast 'nough. Ya gots to keep trying til ya get good. Jus' keep on trying. We gotta go."

Funny, but when you're four-years-old you really trust and believe people more than disbelieve them or think that they may be having a good laugh at your expense. I remember hearing little snickers during this whole dialogue, but only as I age can I see how much fun they had had that day teaching me how to fly.

Yes, I kept trying. I also kept jumping off that porch hoping for eventually lift off. I really can't remember the length of time I spent practicing, but as I climbed the steps back up to the porch after one of my failures, I bumped into grandmomma. I knew I was in double trouble.

"Whats ya trying to do?"

"They's teaching me how to fly like them so I can go places." Why doesn't she just yell at me and get it over with? I remember her looking at the 'brella and looking at the spot where I had been jumping. She then looked at my shoes and dress, which is when I noticed how muddy I was. Yep, I was in triple trouble.

"Sos those two told ya they was gonna teach ya to fly, huh?" She looked past me and I turned to see if I could see what she was seeing. There were Uncles Chaos 1 and 2 standing beside a tree watching everything. Only now do I realize what the strange looks on their faces meant. Then grandmomma did the strangest thing, "Now, child, this is an old 'brella and ain't good for much. Just 'cause ya can't fly now don't mean ya won't never fly. As for them boys, I ain't taught them how to fly yet, but I thank it's time. BOYS!"