When I was a little girl, I played hopscotch, jumped rope, and roller-skated on the sidewalk, careful to dodge the cracks! I made mud pies, picked blackberries, and scratched the chiggers until the bottoms of my feet burned. I caught tadpoles and lightning bugs and put them in a mason jar. I dressed up in my mother’s shoes and gloves. I believed I could be a princess because Daddy said, “Why not?” My family wasn’t rich or poor, but somewhere in between (if there is such a thing.) I stared at the stars on cloudless summer nights and fantasized about faraway places.
My room had pink shag carpet. Mom made my curtains; they had little pompoms that hung from the valance and tiebacks. I remember them well. A record player sat on top of my chest, a Peter Frampton poster hung on my closet door, and a beanbag lay in the corner.
I spent endless hours in that room, never bored from being alone. It was my sanctuary, a place where secrets were never shared, except with God, of course. I wrote down my thoughts in a composition book along with stories that lived in my head. Whatever happened to my notebook? I wish I knew.
A coal furnace heated our house in the wintertime. Winter’s are brutal in the Appalachian mountains. Snow drifted as high as the door handles on my daddy’s pickup truck: a red Chevrolet long-bed with a double-white racing stripe that extended from the headlights to the tailgate. Cinder blocks weighted the bed, making it a makeshift four-wheel drive. I waited and watched on tip-toes through the lowest window pane for Daddy to come home from work. We lived on a hill. Our driveway was long and narrow. Daddy turned around at the post office and, with a running start, never let off the gas until he reached the top. The back of the Chevy fish-tailing in defiance.
Open windows and a box fan circulated the air in our house in the summertime. The heat offered no reprieve as it stilled the landscape with a radiating blur. A smoldering prelude of intense discomfort my daddy referred to as the dog days of summer. The community pool became a second home. There, the smell of Hawaiian Tropic lured passersby into the realm of teenage banter and antics. An occasional shrill from the lifeguard’s whistle interrupted any pool violations brought on by hormonal boys attempting to impress a line-up of adolescent bikinied beauties. It was a good time and an even better memory to recall.
After my mother’s passing in January of 2021, several friends asked why I stopped writing. My reply: “I don’t have anything to say,” which was accurate at the time. But grief works itself out, eventually. My dad once said that if time didn’t heal our grief, we’d all grieve ourselves to death. My dad was such an intelligent man. I’m thankful I can share his one-liners with whoever may need comforting. Unfortunately, I’ve received his one-liners more often than not over the past few years, especially after my mother passed. These days, I sometimes look at the little girl in the mirror who has grown into a mature, older woman. Through those eyes, I have been blessed with a beautiful life. I have loved, and I have been loved. I still love and am loved to this day. Can we ask for anything more?
At the moment, I’m not wearing the tight-fitting shoe. But, dang, it hurts when it’s on, doesn’t it? I’m not naive, though. I know another day will come when I will have to slip them back on. Of course, I don’t look forward to that day, but I know Daddy will whisper in my ear. He’ll probably say something like, “It’ll be alright. This is a part of life.”