Friday, July 16, 2010
#fridayflash~In My Mind's Eye
In My Mind’s Eye
The rising sun bathes my living room in an orange glow. I sip my mug of hot chocolate; tendrils of steam curl through the air and dampen my nose with condensation. As I close my eyes and inhale the drink’s rich aroma, I’m transported to my childhood home at the other side of the country. I part the sheer curtains, looking beyond the grimy glass and vinyl-sided houses lining my street to the stucco homes in the neighbourhood of my youth.
We didn’t have a lawn when we first moved to the suburbs. The front yard consisted of raked and seeded dirt, a small Pampas grass and a cherry blossom tree. Across the street from my childhood home grew a field of tall, golden grass that bent and swayed with the wind’s breath. Children frequently filled the space and launched their kites into the sky. The colourful shapes often gained such altitude we feared they would drift into the paths of planes approaching the nearby airport.
At the eastern edge of the field, where it bordered the school grounds, grew a tall maple. One spring morning I climbed high into the branches of the ancient tree whose waxy, green leaves were beginning to unfurl. Using a pearl-handled pocket knife I carefully carved my initials, and those of a girl I secretly liked, into the bark of a branch thicker than my father’s arm. Later that week the girl caught me admiring her from afar.
“Why don’t you take a picture? It lasts longer,” she teased from across the school yard. My embarrassment prompted me to avoid her for the rest of the sixth grade—and all of grade seven.
The field was eventually subdivided into properties and large stacks of dirt were scattered around the area like giant Hershey’s Kisses. The neighbourhood boys frequently set up brown and green plastic soldiers on the mounds and bombarded them with lumps of dirt until the enemy was vanquished. As such war games progress with boys, the group eventually split into two camps and tossed our ammunition—dirt bombs—at each other.
“Take that, you Commies!” I shouted, lobbing a grenade.
“Get ‘em, guys. Let’s nail ‘em with these bombs,” shouted one of my other Allies.
The war games were a major source of amusement that summer until young Teddy took a direct hit to the forehead with a lump of dirt concealing a jagged rock. He stood stunned for a moment and eventually put his grimy fingers to the wound. A lazy stream of blood meandered to the corner of his eye. When he saw the red on his fingers he began to shriek and ran home to his mother. A ceasefire was declared.
As the summer progressed our mild climate blessed us with regular sunshine and minimum rain, typical for that region of the country. The shirtless boys played outside constantly; their pale skin eventually darkened to shades of chestnut brown.
The neighbourhood continued to evolve. Holes were dug, foundations poured and skeletons of new houses were soon erected. Large concrete sewer pipes lay stacked across our street awaiting their burial in the soil. One afternoon our front door bell rang, rousing my father from his afternoon nap. He answered the door. Nobody was there. He had just gotten comfortable in his chair when the doorbell rang again. Another walk to the door to find nobody. He sat down. Upon the third ring dad dashed to the door, again finding the entrance empty. He sprinted down the stairs and across the road. It took only a few moments to find a long-haired teenager hiding inside one of the pipes. He dragged the youth out by the scruff of his neck.
“If you ring oor bloody bell again I’ll kick your arse!” he shouted, pointing a nicotine-stained finger at the boy’s nose. “And if you tell your old man and he doesnae like it, tell him to come aboot and I’ll kick his arse an’ all!”
The youth, his eyes wide and his face ashen, nodded and fled through the construction zone. Truth be told, the kid probably didn’t understand my dad’s threats because of his thick, Scottish accent. In today’s world, the boy would tell his father who, in turn, would call the cops and have dad charged with assault and uttering threats.
Time crept past and the field was finally gone. Eventually the Pampas grass grew to such a size that small children could hide within its depths, ever mindful of the long, slender leaves that could slice their exposed skin. The cherry tree grew full and brightened the front yard for a couple of weeks each year with its fragrance and pink flowers. Somehow, though, its network of branches became an annual haven for wasps.
I release the curtain, losing my view of the street. The old neighbourhood is both many miles and many years away. I sip my hot chocolate but discover it has gone cold and wonder to myself: Where do all of the kids play these days?