We played in the vast cornfields, running like colts, picking the lacy white flowers called Queen Anne’s Lace, which are really weeds. Ella Wheeler Wilcox said, “A weed is but an unloved flower,” and we loved these frilly things. What I remember most from those days was the space. The wide open hills, the meadows, the big yards, dirt roads that went on and on, long stretches of green with big, old trees.
Our neighbors, the Horsch’s had a barn with a tire swing inside of it. Next door the Shearers had horses. I love the smell of horses. Their pungent fur, their manure, and the way they get grass stains on their lips. How we fed them hands flat so they didn’t accidentally bite off a finger.
In those days I remember putting The Sound of Music on the phonograph, one of those large monstrosities built into a cabinet, lifting the needle to play the record over and over again until my mother cried, “Stop! You’re driving me crazy!” And made us boot up and go play in the snow. It was like being suited up like an astronaut, not an inch of flesh showing. Everything covered except our eyes. Our eyelashes would freeze like tiny stars.
When we looked through the world through those snowflakes eyelashes it was a magical place. Our faces upturned to the sky, watching the white come down from the heavens. It was as if outer space was somehow knowable, these time travelers come to tell us that the world is vast and both knowable and unknowable.
You can travel to places beyond yourself and return home for the cocoa with the mini marshmallows that we would try to eat before they melted. There were jacks in summer on the sidewalk in front of our house. Every day I couldn’t wait to play.
Do you remember that kind of excitement where you welcomed every day anew? Sprang out of bed, not caring what clothes you wore. Fun was the thing. And wonder. That’s what we were seeking then without even knowing it.
That we could build an igloo — a real one — digging out the snow before it froze up against the embankment made of thick wooden slats. Then the three or four of us would go into our little building and it was warm in there. Really warm. While outside the wind blew and the sun blazed, both warm and cold existing like estranged siblings.
In the spring the field where we built the igloo was transformed into a blanket of Monarch butterflies, thousands of them, visiting flower after flower. They do not distinguish flower from weed.
There was a time when phones didn’t buzz on the table. When we didn’t need to take pictures of our food to enjoy it. Or capture a good moment then try to re-live it. Or more likely never even looking at it again. There was a time when we could just look at the night sky and call out, “Hey you, star. I see you. How are you doing?” There was a time when we let ourselves revel in the simple brightness of being.