It’s a spring evening, cool yet warm. The grass in the yard is still slightly damp from the rain last night and there are small mud puddles in the drive way. Watching the neighbor girl, Mylie, and her little sister running barefoot across their yard I think, spring is a great time of year to be a kid.
“Hey!” I holler across to them. “Don’t you guys know you can only go barefoot on months that don’t have the letter “R” in their name? What month is this?”
“April! It’s April!” they giggle and jump up and down on cold, red feet. “But it’s almost May and May doesn’t have an “R” in it,” says the shy little sister (I can’t remember her name).
I watch them awhile sitting on our porch step. The lilac bush next to the house is breaking into bloom and there’s a whiff of perfume in the air. What game are they playing now? Mylie’s trying to hit her sister with a big ball. They must be playing dodge ball. I think about all the ball games my brothers and I played growing up (besides softball). We played “kick the can” using a ball instead of a can, and ball tag, where you didn’t touch your opponent to tag them but instead hit them with a ball. We also played “cigarette” tag (it was the smokin’ 60’s after all). If you squatted down quick enough and named a brand of cigarettes, you were safe. Amazingly, we knew all the brands of cigarettes: Marlboro, Winston, Pall Mall. We had a harder time playing “car” tag. After Ford and Chevy, we had to resort to generic vehicle names like “pick-up” and “station wagon.”
Mylie’s little sister stops suddenly at the side walk edge, and does a cart wheel. Ah. I enjoy seeing how gracefully she executes her cartwheel, lithe arms and legs rotating in a perfect half circle. I used to do cartwheels when I was a kid—and round-offs, which were half cart wheels and half flips.
Could I do a cartwheel now? If I physically survived the attempt, I can see myself swinging through the air, all hips and stomach. It’s not a pretty picture, and I find myself laughing even considering it.
The neighbor girls begin to chase each other. It used to be fun to run—when I was little. Adult running is usually a morning jog, which ironically, we do for our health but end up hurting either our knees or our back. A jog though, might garner us a small endorphin rush, something besides a martini to beat back the mid-afternoon blues. Jogging is nothing compared to the absolute joy of running when you’re an eight-year-old. At that age I never walked anywhere—I ran. And lovely spring evenings were custom made for running and playing. We didn’t stop until the last light of day was gone. Then I’d throw open the screen door and fly into my mom’s kitchen, my nose dripping and my body all chilled from the night air. Mom would say, “Shut the door! It’s getting cold outside!” And I’d whine, “It’s hot in here, mom. I’m hungry.”
William Wordsworth, the early 19th century British poet, wrote many poems with childhood and nature as their theme. He believed in reincarnation and thought that young children, being closer to the event of birth, were more aware of other existences, other lives before birth. As I watch Mylie and her little sister, I’m reminded of a particularly beautiful passage in one of Wordsworth’s poems. A line in this passage became the title of an old movie, Splendor in the Grass:
“That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”
Image credit: Girl Running through Grass
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