A dirty day is a day well spent.

There are some days I will never forget.  On those days of greatest personal impact, I can remember the clothes I wore, the feelings churning in my stomach, and a myriad of insignificant details that get brain-stuck for all time.

One such memory is the biggest dirt fight of my childhood, or rather the paternal storm of discipline that followed.

My brother, myself, and my cousin thought it was great fun to entertain ourselves by throwing dirt.  We waged a war that would make Mr. Colin Powell proud.

No offense intended, but his mean look doesn’t hold a candle to my mom’s.  She could stop suicide bombers with one raise of her evil eyebrow.  I felt the full force of her military-like power the day we waged war.

The morning of the dirt war, I dressed in a one piece purple terry-cloth shorts jumpsuit.  I grew up in an era when terry-cloth was used for more than towels and wash clothes.  This particular Barney purple jumpsuit was a favorite.  Sleeveless and legless, it was the perfect outfit for a New York summer day.  Terry cloth is one of those miracle fabrics modern stylists overlook.  Not only does it absorb sweat, but little particles of dirt can burrow between the fibers.  I gained twelve pounds of dirt during that fateful summer day.

We waited until dusk.  The adults busied themselves drinking coffee and chat-chat-chatting.  We didn’t really know why sitting around the kitchen table for hours with family and neighbors was fun, so we headed out right after dinner.  From their second floor apartment vantage point,  the adults had no idea mud grenades and gravel bombs were exploding two stories below.

There were a few casualties of this great dirt war, so we headed in search of an infirmary or at least a band-aide.  We burst through the front door, falling over each other into my grandma’s apartment.  A trail of dust and grime followed us all the way into the house.  I’ll never forget the grown-up silence.  The sound, or lack thereof, startled us.

Did something happen?

The adults were never this quiet!

Turns out not a one of them were fans of war, especially dirt wars waged by their children.  I think they removed two layers of perfectly good skin that day, scrubbing with an angry vigor.  My mother found her voice and I wished on every wishing star for the next eighty years that she would once again be rendered speechless.

From that day on I vowed to keep the peace.  I made mud pies instead of bombs, but I’ll always remember the fun, and secretly, in that innermost childlike place that never really grows up, I think every angry word from my mother was worth it.  The scrubbing never washed away the memory.  It was a good day to be a kid – a good day to get dirty.

So Monday night, after a long day of Memorial fun, my husband and I packed up our own children for an evening drive home.  I looked back at their dirt smeared clothes, matted hair, and smiles.  I knew they had a good day, a day to remember.  I could hardly stand the stench emanating from their little bodies of my flesh and blood.  The open windows only blew the smell of drooling dog, creek water, dirt, and play-hard sweat around the car.

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One shower wouldn’t wash away this day’s fun.

As we drove home, I remembered.  I thought about the purple terry-cloth jumpsuit and my ears packed with dirt.  I glanced in the side mirror and saw my daughter’s matted hair, and I remembered my mother combing out the dirt from my own.  Yes, the good days of childhood are marked by sunshine and dirt, and if the kids are really lucky, they’ll be some water.

Nothing says summer like a mud pie.

Do you have any dirt stories of your own? Please share.


12 thoughts on “A dirty day is a day well spent.

  1. the domestic fringe Post author

    Love all of your ‘dirty’ stories. Maybe dirt is the thing that can unite the world? Seems like we all appreciate it, at least when we’re kids. 😉

    Have a happy day and get dirty!

  2. Megan

    As a child, not a day went by without some sort of digging or mud-pieing. We used to fight for the right to dig up potatoes in my grandma’s garden! Now, as a grown-up, I don’t even like to plant flowers because I don’t want to get dirt under my fingernails (I know, I know…buy some gloves). When I became “allergic” to dirt.

  3. robinaltman

    My cousins and I once spent the day building a rock bridge across the creek by my grandmother’s house. When we returned to the house we got that same awkward silence and “look”. I truly couldn’t understand what the big deal was. We were wet and dirty. So? Now that I’m a mom and have to clean up the house and the kids, I get it.

  4. Charming's Mama

    We had neighbors who had a sloping field behind their house. One hot summer day we took a hose to the top and let the water run down the slope into their backyard. It made a lovely muddy mess and soon we were using that slope like a slip ‘n slide. We even made it into the newspaper. I’m pretty sure we ruined our swimsuits that day. Good times.

  5. laura

    I wish I had a good dirt story for ya, but alas, I do not.
    Love your slide show! Where did you meet those lovely chickens?! The pic of your daughter holding one is priceless.

  6. momfog

    My grandma had an unused garden plot in the back of her house. My cousins and I would spend hours building roadways and buildings. We had a nice city to run my cousin’s treasured Tonka trucks and Hot Wheels through. I haven’t thought about that in years. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Deb

    We had sandpits in my grandparents’ back, back yard. Grandfather owned a gravel pit and once the gravel was gone it was all glorious sand. Steep mountains of sand that my cousins and I would slide gloriously down over and over again.
    Thanks for the memories! 🙂

    p.s. I would never have let my kids done that.

  8. accidentalsouthernmama

    I had my own run-in with “THE LOOK” from my mother one Sunday afternoon as my sister,4 friends and myself found ourselves playing in the mudpuddles in the driveway. It wasn’t even a hot day, but it was there…we were there…we were bored. My mom discovered the 6 of us about two hours before evening church and it was a mad rush to hose us down (literally) and throw us through the tub while she washed and dried our clothes to get us all out the door and into church before their mothers could see the dirt. A very satisfying day, indeed! It’s been more than 25 years, but I bet every one of us remembers that afternoon! I know my mom has never forgotten.

  9. Jill

    If dirt measures fun, then my kids have the best life on earth! : ) Seriously, one summertime in Alabama, my four oldest decided to make a mudslide down the hill. They ended up being four uniformly brown blobs by the time they were done. They had to be hosed off and stripped on the back porch before they ever entered the house, and then scrubbed multiple times before I could get them clean. Interestingly enough, my daughter also wore purple that day. and I had to wash her hair four or five times to get the clumps of mud out. I thought I’d have to cut her almost waist-length hair to her shoulders or shorter!


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