Childhood Memoirs - Cloud Jumping with Renee Kerr, or, My First Foreign Girlfriend

Total Posts:  8366
Joined  20-02-2006
10 September 2018 18:03

The fields where we played were bordered by hawthorn trees that bloomed in May and scented the air, and produced red berries in October.  On some days white clouds drifted over us like sailing ships, casting fast-moving shadows on the fields.  One game was to jump in unison over these shadows, each claiming with shrieks that our feet never touched the shadow.

An older girl, maybe in the next grade at school, with a peculiar accent, whose parents had been killed in the London Blitz, said that these clouds came over the sea from Ireland.  She said each had a name like, Shannon, Kilkee or Belfast.  She pointed to the one sailing over us and said, “That’s Kilkee.”  Isaac Goodwin was little and believed everything.  He pointed to the one behind Kilkee and said, “What’s that one?”  Without hesitation Renee said, “That’s Kilkee’s brother Belfast.  They just call him Bell.  My father was a diplomac in Ireland.  He told me these things.  He told me that these clouds were the children of the Gulf Stream which is a big warm river in the Atlantic that keeps Britain from having polar bears.”

This girl’s name was Renee Kerr.  When we sat down to rest from climbing the hawthorn trees, getting scratched from thorns, and cloud jumping and so on, we sometimes sat around the edge of an anti-aircraft gun foundation with our feet dangling over the edge.  It was like a round cement pool partly filled with rain water.  Renee told us stories about London.  “The dive bombers scream,” she said.  “They scream when they are diving.  They are called ‘Stukas.’  My father says they scream to frighten us.”

“My brother has a Spitfire,” Ian Nish said.

“My cousin is in Australia,” Wilma Templeton said.  “In the RAF.  He’s going to send me a boomerang.”

“Buckingham Palace was hit,” Renee Kerr said.  “Even when the King and Queen were at home.”

“They came to see us,” my sister said.  “They drove down High Street in a motorcar.  The King waved at me.”

“My brother was at Dunkirk,” Jack Bailey said.  He was hurt.  His friends were killed.  All of them.  A Stuka hit their boat.  My brother is deaf.  He can’t speak.”

Renee Kerr started to cry.  The cloud shadows swept over us.  Isaac Goodwin was little, probably four.  He pointed to a cloud and said, “What is that one called.”  He really thought it had a name.

Big Davy the policeman was walking toward us.  “I’ve told you wains (wee ones) not to play around these things,” he said.  “There could be live shells in that water, or Gerry mines.  Don’t you ken (know) about that boy from Causyside Street?”

Isaac pointed to the water below our feet.  “There’s frogs in there,” he said.  “My daddy said they hatch in there and can’t get out.”  (his vernacular would be unintelligible here)

Big Davy pointed his stick at Renee.  “What is she greetin’ (crying) aboot?”

“She’s from London,” Jack Bailey said.  “Her mum and dad were killed.  She can talk like the Queen.  My brother . . . ”  Jack’s sister, Alice, poked him with her elbow.

Big Davy took his huge hat off and rubbed the silver badge with his sleeve.  He looked at the hawthorn trees, the blossoms, then up at the sailing clouds.  “Don’t cry, pet,” he said, gesturing his hat toward Renee.  “Don’t cry love.  We’ll all be going home some day, God willing.”  He put his big hat back on his gray head, adjusted the chin strap and walked away toward town.  (scroll down to see and hear Stuka)

[ Edited: 10 September 2018 18:07 by unsmoked]