On nights when the incessant traffic noise mysteriously vanishes and the sound of a dog barking echoes outside my window, I miss my childhood. My heart reaches back toward sight of the full moon rising swollen and orange behind rows of corn and the smell of burning leaves at the end of the driveway, burrowing into cotton and denim and polyester, permeating thick hair for days.
I long for the feel of the concrete porch under my pink nightgown, the cats rubbing up against me as I filled three-ring binders with poems, stories, and the drama of a blissfully mundane life.
I ache for the heady freedom of sitting atop a ten-foot whitewashed fence at sunset, of lying back on a corrugated tin roof as it radiates the heat of the day into the cool night, watching the endless sky fade from sunset to first stars to bejeweled. I feel again the warmth and good smells and brightness upon opening the door afterward, the smell of bread promising love and security.
I miss games of badminton in the big yard that were about conversation, not sport. On a good night we had to move into the pool of greenish-white below the security light to keep going past dark.
I miss the simplicity of those days: mist rising from creeks to east and west, breezes through the treehouse, sunsets turning from sherbet to russet in the still surface of the pond, and the ghostly roar of the grain dryer running at night, waxing and waning with the vagaries of the night breezes. On what did I squander those precious hours? Now, everything is a responsibility, even hobbies. And the kicking inside my pelvis reminds me that the responsibilities are only on the rise.
It’s hard to remember, on nights like this, with the windows open and the orchestra of crickets carrying me backward in time, that I wasn’t cognizant of what lay all around me.
(the silence, the space, the distant bellow of a cow and the ghostly sound of feeder lids tapping tin)
That most of the time I was so busy focusing on something else that I didn’t realize how deeply the impressions were engraving, shaping me,
(the uneven boards of a treehouse built of platforms, my own brain child, the day we were washing windows and I impulsively carried my ladder from the west side of the house to the tree at the corner of the driveway)
that in my life now there are moments of equal beauty that I overlook in the mad rush to accomplish other things,
(dark almond eyes in the orange of street light, the smile of a little girl who never fails to be delighted that Mommy responded to her midnight cries)
moments that skip right over my awareness and embed themselves within, shaping me, drawing me inexorably along the continuum from who I am today to the woman I will be a few years.
I miss childhood, but it’s a gift, moving on.