‘Going to be one hot summer for sure,’ said Uncle Willie
who had set his heart on growing watermelons
in a cindery patch at the very end of his Garden.
‘No one is going to look there for them.’ He told no one
but us, planted them at night. Joyce and I
biked sweatily out to our first job, tenderly
moved translucent baby cabbages, made little hats
for them, carried water endlessly and longed
for the promised crisp bite, the crisp juices
reviving, ‘turning us into real people’, he said.
We were just at that turning point, thirteen years old;
we dreamed of the watermelon promise.
He said they were ‘coming along nicely’, green
taut, bulging over the hillside, as yet
undiscovered by the boys. September came.
The boys came. One Saturday morning we saw
yellowing leaves only and every watermelon gone.
Yet the anticipation of the melon miracle
seemed to have turned us, Joyce and I, into ‘real people’.
And we pondered this, purposely noisy with our milkshakes,
solacing ourselves with second best.
Colleen Thibaudeau, 1989
“Watermelon Summer” is from The Artemesia Book (1991), available from Brick Books.
Long after the Watermelon Summer, Colleen and Joyce remained friends and Joyce grew up to be a talented artist. She once made a “bon voyage” cake (complete with arc de triomphe!) when Colleen left to teach in France.