I dream in summer nights with air so thick and warm it embraces me like a lover. I lie on my back in the soft grass and stare up at the airy labyrinth of branches, strange rough hands reaching toward one another, straining upward, against gravity, against roots- actually succeeding quietly and steadily through the passing of many seasons. I trace the paths the stars make and look for my own constellations. These are things more interesting than a belt or a dipper or a smudge of condensed stars. I hear traces of childhood lullabies echoing in my ears as if I’m straining to hear a snatch of music not simply far away but far a-time. I inhale the scent of grass clippings, soil, and dew, the latter made of fairy folks silver slippers and finery of faintest gossamer. I wonder why I’ve forgotten them and if all things will lose their enchantment someday. Cicadas and crickets chirrup in raucous chorus- the summertime lullaby of my youth occurring when the clouds were golden and yellow, but mostly pink and remaining blue, like the cotton candy popsicles from the ice cream truck. I used to lie on my front lawn with a disposable camera, capturing the cloud pictures at sunset. I still have those photos in an old album. I won’t forget the tiny cities of tiles and monopoly houses I created in the dirt, or my tree with its four trunks and oddly formed basin of a knothole in the front. I won’t forget the forest in the flowerbed of unnaturally tall zinnias my mother planted and boosted with too much miracle grow. I still see the tiny rosebushes in the red pumice stone bed, the tulips lining the front patio, the front step where my two year old brother fell clean off and had quite the mark on his head to show, the same step I pushed off of barefoot learning to ride my bike and scarring the bases of my last two left toes in the process. I close my eyes and remember the buckets of dandelion soup I made with water from the spigot on the outside of the house and a variety of weeds everywhere. I look up, startled, to hear my father practicing softball pitching on the door of the shed. Opening the doors to the shed I see the Jack-O-Lantern we always kept in there from the previous owner, but never used. The garage workbench was dusty and the fluorescent light overhead rarely worked. We used to have clubs during the day when it was empty as my father was at work. I hear the frantic chirps of the baby bird that was trapped in the garage until I used a plastic bowl to scoop it up and set it near its nest outside, taking extra care to not touch it so its mother would still accept it. Ash trees were unevenly on either side of the driveway where I used to pace and taught myself how to whistle in anticipation for my father’s return from work. One was surrounded with Hostas, of which we used to pop the buds in the spring to hear the characteristic popping sound, despite our mother’s admonitions.
I want to wrap up my childhood in a brightly colored box, maybe in the pattern of the swimsuit I wore constantly during the summer and save it, in all its ornate yet simple beauty for the days I might have later to cherish what a miracle it is to be alive.