Tuesday, October 9, 2018

9. I've Been Here Before

As I plucked more of the unwanted vegetation that comes back thicker each summer, summers of my childhood emerged in my mind like a filmstrip across my forehead. I saw myself riding my bike in the driveway as my dad did the Saturday yard work. He was hard at work, but he looked up and waved or stopped the mower to answer a question.
Two sycamore trees loom large in my memory. The one on the west side of the house. The one I loved to climb. Then I remember the time I climbed it, spooked myself and couldn't climb down. I was no older than third grade and my little first-grader sister stood on the ground below. Her arms were outstretched ready to help me. I felt a hot wave of fear. She was too little for this job. “Go get Mom,” I barked, convinced that without her I might be stuck here forever. My sister ran in the house and brought Mom back with her. Her height comforted me and her arms beckoned to me. With her hands guiding me, I eased out of the tree, dumbfounded that this thing I'd done a million times confounded me today.
The other sycamore, taller, broader, and more majestic anchored Steeleville's backyard. The family gathered under the shade of the tree when my sister and I wanted to be pushed on the tree swing. My grandpa or uncle took one spot and my dad chose the opposite and they pushed us back and forth, back and forth. I loved the sensation of being so far off the ground, aloft, the warm Kansas wind breathing on me, whipping my hair off my neck and back. I felt light and happy. 

In the background, the neighborhood was surrounded by cottonwoods—my other favorite tree. The cottonwoods' leaves shivered and and made a rustling sound even in the lightest breezes. I loved the sparkle their leaves cast.
My grandparents' backyard was a wonderland. It felt like a farm minus the animals, and it's where I learned that getting my hands dirty was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
I came back to the present, a little breathless. Maybe I haven't given myself enough credit. Maybe there was a little outdoorswoman, a little gardener in this bookworm all along. Maybe I've needed extra time to cultivate that part of me. What other things are below the surface of who I think I am? What if I gave myself the space and time to explore?


  1. Love this! I believe we can all sell ourselves short. Memories are wonderful and you did an artful job of letting me relive that mem with you. Keep it up!

  2. Ah, yes! The mystery of what lies beneath the surface! Love this!

  3. I echo what Karrilee said above!