May 12, 2016

Things are Heating Up

Nothing is more nostalgic for me than childhood summers. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher for a mother – I never had to stay at daycare during this precious time off school. It was just me, my best friend, and the world as our oyster.

Part of the reason I fell in love with the story Bridge to Terabithia was because those were my woods and they were alive. I say my sense of adventure came from my first tastes of riding in planes, but a seed was planted long before that. Our backyard jungle was full of storylines – fallen tree bridges leading to castles of bamboo and a forgotten storm drain caves with mysteries lurking just past the shadows. It’s funny how I don’t remember bugs, just the sun streaming through breaks in the leaves above (bringing out the freckles on my nose).

We’d catch crawdads in the creek and put them in mason jars for pets only to return to muddy red water and learn they fight to the death. My mom wouldn’t buy a four-wheeler like the rest of the kids but that didn’t stop us from having riding lawn mower races, and I’m smiling as I write this because I remember how my friend always chose the fastest one. It was her only flaw – she was a perfect friend, the kind that would take the fall for you and actually write you when she said she would after her family moved away.  I hated her brother, he was as mean as they came, but if you thought a frail little thing like me had a chance of standing up to him, well, I’m doing my best to make up for that now.

Her grandma could cook, let me tell you. I was always jealous because that was the epitome of a good southern grandmother, and mine was from the north and she’d re-serve Easter’s pork loin from the freezer when we’d visit for her birthday. My friend and I would walk along the gravel roads, sweating with baskets in hand in search for those wild blackberry bushes. Upon our return, fingers dyed purple, we looked mighty suspicious and crossed our fingers that her grandma would find our baskets full enough for the only thing better than fresh wild blackberries: homemade cobbler. It just wasn’t the same without a scoop of Blue Bell.

It’s hard not to salivate like my current beau’s dog when I think about flaky biscuits with honey at her breakfast table. I can’t believe it’s such a challenge to find RC Cola these days. Their fresh fruit trees were the best, way better than the beans from our garden, and I remember giving those watermelons a sounding thump before shooting the seeds from our mouths like automatic weapons. What kid needs a seedless melon?

I have to laugh at myself a little now when jumping from boulders into murky waters brings on nervousness. We’d swim in anything just to get out of the heat. When she finally got that above ground pool, you might have thought
we were in the Pacific instead of PVC and laminated siding. Talk about easy living.

It’s a bit cruel when I think about the bee crisis now but we’d gently tie a piece of string around a bumblebee to fly our pet kites – most of which got away unharmed, and when I say we I mean her because I looked like a girly thing in her shadow. Firefly jars were more innocent and there were more than enough to go around. I remember “becoming of age” when my parents let us walk to Purifoy’s Grocery less than a mile up the road – we’d buy ourselves a couple of cream sodas and some of that Big League Chew gum. Once we thought we’d make a little cash by picking up aluminum cans and an older neighbor thought we were doing such a service he brought us a couple of cold Dr. Peppers (which we never had because my mom didn’t drink them).

Moving away wasn’t actually what ended our friendship; like I said, she was the bee’s knees and she’d always send me trinkets. Plus, she’d move back and forth. To this day, though, I’m a little confused what happened. I remember having an argument at her Halloween party around 8th grade. I only remember thinking it was a misunderstanding. It was the first lesson I had on that: that most fights are misunderstandings. It’s really given me a need for clearing up miscommunications, to the point of annoying otherwise interested boys.

Regardless, things never were the same again. Sometimes I think about her. They say you’ll never forget your first love, but I think you do ‘cause I don’t think about him at all. But I’ll never forget my first best friend or the summers we shared. They’re the sweetest memories I have. 

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