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They paved paradise

November 5, 2011

The memory is a funny thing.  Right now it is November and I’m sitting here in leopard print pajamas, surfing the internet and playing word games on my mobile phone.  I am weary from my day and I’m feeling the march of time on my body.

But in an instant,  with very little provocation, I am not as I am and I am not here.  I am young and light and full of energy.  I would not be caught dead in leopard print pajamas but would laugh at the silliness of wearing such odd things.

In those moments I am most often at my Grandpa’s house, or the house my Aunt Lenora and Aunt Sarah shared on the old family home place.  At Grandpa’s I can smell the phlox and I stand very still in hope of catching a butterfly or a tobacco blower, an insect that was probably a hummingbird hawk moth.  I was good at catching them. I slip into the barn and smell the musty odor of hay and old tobacco leaves, and with no effort at all I climb up into the hay mow and play in the loft.  Sometimes I ask Grandpa for a turnip, and he goes into the garden and pulls one up, rinses it if there’s water handy (but just wipes it off on his pant leg if there isn’t), pulls out his pocket knife and trims the root and the greens and hands it to me. I’ve never cared for a cooked turnip, but those raw ones straight from the garden were incredible.

At Aunt Lenora’s and Aunt Sarah’s I can hear the chickens squabbling and squawking in their coops on the hill.  I can feel the hard porch beneath me as I crack hickory nuts on the cement with a hammer.  I feel the cool of the basement even on hot days, and I can see my cousin Carla with yet another terrible case of weepy, itchy poison ivy all over her body.  I’ve still never seen anyone get it as bad as I remember her getting it.  I can hear Aunt Lenora get after us for some mildly obnoxious behavior, and though she never spanked me, I never for an instant doubted that she would if she thought I deserved it.  I skip alongside of Aunt Sarah as she carries a bucket of kitchen scraps up the hill towards the pig pen.  We stop at a small building along the way and she lets me scoop the “mash” into the slop bucket.  I think it’s funny to watch the pigs jostle for their share.

I watch the shadows of the clouds dance across the West Virginia hills, blown by breezes that tangle my hair and cool my face.  Everything smells green and faintly of cow manure, though in some places the latter smell isn’t faint at all and I find that I both love and hate the stink of it at the same time.  My body is not inhibited by age or size or extra pounds.  I run, I climb, I wade, I bend.  I might as well be flying, but of course, I am too young to know how time will become a thief to my energy or my skinny rubber band limbs.  I am but a child.  My entire life is in front of me, but I really don’t think past wondering what’s for supper and if I’ll be permitted to spend the night at Aunt Lenora’s and Aunt Sarah’s.

It amazes me that I really can see it.  I really can smell it.  I can taste the tables laden with good country food.  I can taste the mineral-laden water drawn from my Grandpa’s stone well.  In my mind it was just yesterday.  In reality it was decades ago.

There’s a line from the song Big Yellow Taxi that says “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.  Kids live in the moment, as if the future is a sure thing, as if it’s much further away than it really is.  We don’t know what we’ve got because we’ve never had anything else.  But by the time we grow up and we have the something elses and we can truly appreciate what we had, there are bills to pay and meetings to attend and dishes to wash and we find our bodies growing stiffer and slower.  Grandpas and beloved Aunts pass on to eternity, and we understand what Bandit Time has done while we were busy growing up.

Growing up.  The very thing we couldn’t wait to do as kids.  The very thing we wish we could undo as adults.  Just one more butterfly in my hands.  Just one more hickory nut.  Just one more trip to the hay mow.

Of course, there won’t be “just one more” of those things.  It makes me wonder what part of my current life I may someday long for “just one more” of.  I want to really know what I’ve got before it’s gone.  I suppose that in many ways that’s not really possible. We might be able to intellectually “know” such things, but to know them deep in our hearts is a different story.

The memory really is a funny thing.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2011 8:14 am

    Yep, thanks to this post, I just got back from my Grandpas farm where I could smell the breakfast, taste the chewing tobacco and climb on the big stack of haybails and not be sore for a week afterwards. I SO miss those days. Oh well, I’ll get off the pogo stick I used for transportation on the farm and get back to the present.

    I love it when someone’s blog takes me down my own memory lane. You had a cool childhood.


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