Childhood

bikesatnight

We swam in our backyard pond—feet kicking through weeds, chasing snapping turtles, jumping off our old wooden raft. We dove from the dock, playing mermaid, swinging from the tree branches above then diving deep into the cool water below. We stayed out until the white moon gazed down and the stars woke up and our moms called us home.

In summer, we raced our bikes down the big hill, and in winter, when snow filled the woods, we darted by trees on fiberglass sleds.

We rode in the station wagon to the movies, all of us, cousins, siblings, friends. We played punch-buggy and argued and laughed and teased each other. We hid candy in our pockets. Later we drank coke and ate pop-corn and whispered across the aisle.

We danced in the living room. We sang into hair brushes and twisted our bodies and flung our arms in the air. We climbed into bunk beds and played dolls and told ghost stories and ate devil dogs.

We kept secrets—good and bad and terrible. We held them like babies and never gave them up. Still even now.

You gave me this story—the one where we grew up together arms linked as if nothing could break us. You gave me the pond and the hill and the laughing and the dancing. I will remember it my way even though I know it was much different for you.

Even though I know more now. I will remember it my way.

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On Myths

“The myth of the hero was not intended to provide us with icons to admire, but was designed to tap into the vein of heroism within ourself. Myth must lead to imitation or participation, not passive contemplation.” – Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth

Eagle Pond

friends

We walked in the woods around eagle pond
I had forgotten it was a favorite place
until I walked it with you and saw it again through our friendship

I gathered a handful of pinecones
searching for the little ones that you said look like tiny roses
their coil tip the same swirl that runs through everything
the same one that can be found in the wind sneaking through the trees as we walked

The kids plodded by us
sometimes happy
other times their complaints clanging in the quiet woods
but the dogs that barreled past us with their pink tongues licking the November air – they understood that spring dancing at the threshold of winter wouldn’t last
so they frolicked down the trail–the bounce in their gate saying “can you believe this?”

We walked the perimeter of the pond, found the holly trees with bright red berries and the ones without, we found the little bridge, and a big tree that fell in a storm, and the water’s edge that carried the sun like a gossamer coat

We walked and stole moments of conversation
while the children asked  “how much longer?”
We stretched time–pulling it like a rubber band because we too knew it wouldn’t last

It was one of the days you will forget the particulars
But will always remember the feeling of it: the autumn trees, the leaves crunching under foot, the curve of the path taking you
round and round and round
reminding you that, then again, some things do last forever

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Sledding at dusk

This essay was originally published by the The Christian Science Monitor on January 10, 2010.

Last winter, while my husband was away, my two girls and I went sledding. I didn’t really want to go, but I had promised. It was the baby’s fussy time, and he wailed in his seat while I outfitted Julia and Elise in their snowsuits, scarves, hats, mittens, and boots. By the time I got the baby settled with my mother, I was completely stressed out, as usual.

We trudged to the backyard through the crunchy snow, carrying the sleds to the top of our small hill. The girls jumped on their discs and plowed out the first path. They tumbled off their sleds at the bottom and rolled around gleefully. I felt better out in the cold air, but my thoughts wandered from the girls to all the chores that awaited me indoors.

Elise asked me to ride with her, so we arranged ourselves on the sled with her on my lap. I pushed off and away we went, spinning down and careening into a barrier of logs that my husband had constructed to block the river below. Julia followed behind and crashed into us. We lay back in the snow and looked up: A crescent moon pierced the indigo sky, which slowly faded to a lavender horizon.

“Look at the moon,” Elise cheered.

“It’s a purple sky,” Julia added. Then they were quiet. I inhaled the frigid air. I couldn’t remember the last time things felt so still and peaceful.

For the next 20 minutes, we zipped up and down the hill, and then we made snow angels. I closed my eyes. I had forgotten how to be this way: spontaneous and free and childlike. Elise kept hugging me, and Julia begged for more time outside.

We ducked inside and grabbed some flashlights, then walked the perimeter of our yard, looking for animal tracks. A trail of small prints led from a tree to the bird feeder. We guessed it was a squirrel. Out front, we found smaller tracks leading into our green storage tent. This time we suspected a chipmunk.

Finally it was dark. My jeans were cold and wet, and Elise’s mittens had fallen off. We had only been out for 45 minutes, but it felt as though time had stopped just for us. Out there in the snow, I remembered the carefree girl I used to be.

I need to remember her more often. Most of all, I need to remember the light in my daughters’ eyes as we tumbled and twirled and laughed in the purple dusk of one early evening.

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