The gradual regression. Or, at least, the wish that you could regress. Don’t you remember how nice it was, the crunch of snow under your boots, the inevitable waddle of too many layers? Dogs pranced around nearby and the sweet smell of pine surrounded you.
“Which tree, guys?” your parents ask as evergreen branches brushed with snow tower above you. They all look the same, but somehow, this one is special.
Pine needles that pierced my fingertips or the bottom of my sock feet—those were the biggest perils in my life. The taste of raw cookie dough and the eternal fire that burned in our living room gave the season life. My mouth felt chalky after drinking hot chocolate too quickly. I was never patient enough to let it cool.
I long to once again live in a world of towering things that never seemed to threaten. Tiny Playmobil flowers seemed to find their way into every crevice of our home. Looking up at the fridge, it was a mountain before me. Pulling bows out of my hair meant the end of the day. And reading… How old was I when I read “Goose Girl,” a book so large it felt daunting? My mother encouraged me over and over again to read it. When I finally did, I fell into the pages. I could feel myself grabbing the mane of the horse she rode.
Getting sick didn’t hold the same gravity when I was young. Getting sick was apple sauce to counter low blood sugar. Getting sick was McDonalds chicken nuggets and a sprite when I was starting to feel better. Getting sick was Mary Poppins in bed. Does any movie make me feel as Julie Andrews did then?
I didn’t question life’s purpose. I didn’t question if I was living right, if I was choosing the right path. My mind instead wandered, light and airy. Rocks were canvases to be painted. Or, if they were flat enough, to be skipped across the water. Will I ever feel so light again? There was no tightening in my chest. There was no wondering when and if worries would subside.
I waited for my dad to return from a golf trip, hating his friends for taking him from me. I waited by our big, French windows, watching the tree in the front yard cast shadows on the lawn. I don’t know if I actually remember this, or if the memory is fabricated from the stories my mother would tell me. What I do remember is my brother’s car seat and the dark drive to our new home, painting walls in my yellow Sesame Street tee shirt and bouncing on a neighbor’s trampoline. The ones without enclosure nets felt especially scandalous. One bad bounce and I’d be sprawled on the ground. I knew my mother wouldn't approve, but I bounced anyway. Picking berries in the woods behind my grandmother's house, sitting on my grandfather's lap baffled by the conundrum of consuming sunflower seeds, popping cherry tomatoes into my mouth from my neighbors garden, trying to throw a ball up to an impossibly high hoop—these are things I remember. Piles of leaves magically formed in our front yard every fall. The leaves at the bottom were black and wet with a distinct smell that still strikes me today whenever I pass a pile.
Making dances, creating stories, imagining, playing. Filling my time was easy, not a burden. I didn’t strain in passing my day, rather, my mother was the bad guy, nightly telling me to go to bed. It was especially unfair in the summer, when I had to beat the sun to bed. I can still see the orange-red splaying out across my bedroom walls, taunting me, teasing me.
Scraped knees were my only scars and puddles were an exciting opportunity for deviance, not a dismal sign of a dreary day. Love was defined by what I felt for my mother or even my dog, and sadness was temporary, easily forgotten.
I suppose I pine for simplicity more than my childhood. Life now is not without its pleasures, but simplicity, that seems to be gone.
Enjoying and learning from this chapter as the pages turn