back in time

Every weekday morning, after I put Calvin on the bus and slug down my cold coffee, I take our dog Rudy for a walk. Often, we head into the stand of trees that borders the vast athletic fields near our home. We amble along a wide path now muddy and strewn with autumn leaves, listening to the din of a lone woodpecker high in a long-dead tree. A loose chain of houses lines the path, their back yards spilling into the clearing, some fenced, others not. As we approach, one house in particular begs me to pause. The structure, a brick ranch style home with a dark shingle roof, reminds me of the house I grew up in, lived in from the age of two until I turned twenty. As I gaze at the house my emotions become visceral, as if I might witness my father walking right out the sliding glass doors onto the sloping lawn, or perhaps my mother, wearing her patchwork apron, ringing the patio dinner bell. I see this house and I become a kid again, a tomboy clad in dirty hand-me-down Levi’s, rubber-toed sneakers, a t-shirt and a worn out hoodie.

Living on a secluded lot with few neighbors, I considered my house and the rocks and trees surrounding it as my friends. I had named the twin fir trees flanking our gravel drive Huey and Louie. A born tree climber, I’d squirrel my way up through the spokes of their sappy branches and straddle myself far above the roof gazing at the Seattle skyline and, on clear days, the Olympic range beyond. On summer days I’d mow the lawn and feed handfuls of clippings and wormy apples to the neighbors' horses. I’d lay for hours on a threadbare towel worshiping the sun and surveying images in the clouds that passed overhead. I’d nap in the supple shade of a plum-colored Japanese maple as cherry blossoms floated  across my face. In the remnants of a rotted-out old cabin in the adjacent wooded lot I’d dig for old bottles and other treasures. What really captivated my attention was studying ladybugs, dragonflies, slugs and bumblebees. I’d fashion daisy chains with dandelions and buttercups or make a blade of grass sing between my thumbs. In the still of afternoon I’d braid my hair in pigtails, weave colored plastic strips into a square-ish lanyard, plait a bracelet of white string like I learned at camp, one I’d wear on my brown wrist for the entire summer and well into the school year until I had to cut it off it got so dirty. When it rained I made mud pies, stomped in puddles, hid in the hollow arch of trees, watched earthworms emerge from the grass only to be gobbled up by quick, red-breasted robins.

Somehow, standing there on the wooded path facing some stranger’s brick ranch, I yearn to step foot into the yard and go back in time, to a time when I hadn’t a care in the world save the burden of simple chores, back to a time when I didn’t fret constantly over a wordless, disabled child with a rampant seizure disorder. I want to bring Calvin back with me and introduce him to my father, my mother. With net in hand, I want him to chase butterflies with me—catch and release—and frogs just the same. I want to lay with Calvin on a ratty towel sinking into the grass and just be—still—not chasing around a boy on the end of a harness who never stops moving, not long enough anyway to gaze at the sky, not long enough to regard a bird or smell a flower or pause simply to soak it all in, a boy who I’ll never be sure can use his imagination at all much less consider the rocks and trees or the faces sculpted in clouds.

From last December.

1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain that underlies everything--even the lovely memories you share with us. It is a privilege to know you and to read your writing. Calvin's sad lot would be so much worse if he didn't have you and Michael... You are parents in the true sense of the word. This may not help much when you are hurting, but I'd like it to help.