There Are Times When It Is Appropriate To Revisit The Past

A recent car trip from Maryland to Vermont gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life. Most of us are trying to escape our past and carve out our future. I believe there is a time and a place for both.

The Tire Swing Reminds Me Of My Youth

Taking a drive north through the back roads of Maryland and Pennsylvania I always look forward to one spot where I feel as though I step back in time. Leaving Lineboro Road and turning right onto Steltz before a quick left, I pray for no other cars on the road, and I position my camera trying to capture the feeling of the field and tree and swing, but I never can.

The nostalgia that I feel when driving by this tire swing hanging from a tree skimming the tall grass is palpable. If it is early enough in the morning, sometimes, a foggy mist lies low. As I turn left onto the tree-lined dirt road, wildflowers grin at me lifting my spirits.

I think of the people that have owned the property and wonder what happened to the children that used to play on that swing. Are they grown and do they have children of their own? Do the grandparents still live there? Was this piece of property, now mostly overgrown, their dream? Did the child swinging on that tire have big dreams of what they would do when they grew up? Did they fulfill those dreams?

Has the next generation come back and visited or will a new family stumble upon this magical spot and make memories to last a lifetime?

This one scene evokes my whole childhood. I recall building tree forts in my youth. I can hear the hammer hit the nails and remember my father making us get his tools from the newly built structure after dark. “If you borrow something, take care of it and return it when done,” he would say.

I remember the deliciousness of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while seated on a blanket in the middle of a grassy field and drinking cold lemonade after taking a walk through the power lines. There we discovered wild grapes, poison ivy, and teaberry leaves. I can smell the aroma of the leaf after being snapped in half even now.

They smelled as delicious as pink Canadian Mints tasted.

I remember plugging the drainage hole of a discarded bathtub we found in the middle of the woods as we tried to float it on a small pond at the end of a runway. I remember walking on the rail of nearby railroad beds and having contests to see who could stay on the longest. I have fond memories of playing King of the Hill at the “Big Hills” — simply a sand pit a few miles from my home. We walked and biked everywhere.

I was fortunate to have a childhood filled with exploration, neighborhood friends my age, creative parents and siblings by my side. I am sad to think my children had video games, more supervision, less family and more structured things to do.

Memory Lane

I am amazed that one sight, one smell, can bring me back to a simpler time. I took out the old croquet set last weekend. This time the lawn where I set up the wickets was much smaller than the one at my parent’s house. I can remember our yells of Poison! And being surprised that the person that took the longest to get through the course came out the winner.

I can remember watching summer storms, rain falling, hail pounding while in the safety of our garage turned barn. The horses would snicker and snort, the smell of fresh chips permeated the barn, and the pigs would grunt and ask for their backs to be scratched.

Back then, when the trees were much smaller, I could see clear across the runway. We would ride our bikes around the center pole of the barn while watching lightning bolts fill the sky waiting for our time to be back outside. I remember counting one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three- one-thousand every time we saw lighting until we heard the clap of thunder. Dad helped us enjoy storms rather than be fearful of them. Then Mom made sure we went out and stomped in all the puddles allowing us to connect with nature and realize that after every storm comes a new day.

I can remember the sound of crickets and peepers when the sun went down and the magic of fireflies blinking in the dark and the sound of mosquitos in my ear. I can remember being so small I could crawl in between the stalks of corn growing and look up as if they were sequoias gracing my day.

Old Barns

As I drove through the backroads headed home and saw old, weathered barns, I thought of my Father and his stories of his youth — milking cows. I think of our ancestors, the simple ways of life, of hard work, of healthy food, of family gatherings.

I feel sad when I see vines take over the once vibrant barns. It feels as though the family has lost too much, or the gilded city has called to too many. When I see farms coming back to life, and barns shored up, I feel a great sense of gratitude and hope.

Love Finds Us No Matter Where We are

I hated weeding the garden when I was growing up. It was backbreaking work, and the tomato worms freaked me out. I understood my mother loved her gardens not only as s source of food to feed a large family but I think it was a way to say; I am victorious! I escaped the city.

I remember summers when my Father got home at night; my mother would get two frosted mugs from the freezer, pour Narragansett beer into them, shake a little salt and pepper onto the head and she and my father would walk the flower beds surrounding the property, drinking their ice cold beer. This was their time, and the kids weren’t allowed.

By osmosis, I learned about the names of flowers, the types of plants that needed to grow next to each other, which plants were annuals versus perennials and which were their favorites.

As I left my youngest son’s new home, I couldn’t help but pull a few weeds remembering Mom and Dad, thinking about how they would love to get hold of the flower beds and make their mark. I thought that perhaps they were there, watching over their grandson and visiting with me.

As I dusted off my hands, I looked down. There on my finger was part of a clover, shaped like a heart that didn’t want to leave.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thanks for my memories and the opportunities I had in my youth. Thanks for sticking around and guiding us from your vantage point. Thanks for your love.

Raising the light quotient of humanity, one story at a time.