I should be studying for an Archaeology exam that is going to happen at 10:10 a.m. Monday morning, but I keep thinking about something.
When I was a girl and was allowed to roam a bit in the woods behind my house, I would climb in the creek and pull up handfuls of clay and let it squish through my fingers. The clay was filled with hard, small little black mussels. The creek was filled with snakes and old tins cans and glass bottles. I went there to stretch out, dirty and scruffy as the bit of woods was. I read The Secret Garden & Trixie Belden and I wanted to find things in the dirt. My imagination was so strong that I thought the trees held secret doors and that I could, if I looked at them the right way, walk into them and out of there.
I was allowed to be home by myself for short periods of time by then, though I always forgot my key and had to use the spare to get in. The spare was hidden on a ledge just inside the crawlspace, just a quick hand in-hand out was all it took to get to it. Guarding the crawlspace door (peeling white paint, wildflowers growing at its base) were black-faced carpenter bees, who circled and hovered around me nosily. If I made it past them I had to face the cave crickets who lived inside the crawlspace; they made clicking sounds when they jumped and some were as big as my thumb.
If I was too afraid to make my way past nature’s obstacles and enter the house through the kitchen door, I had to go to the neighbors and wait for my mom or my sister to come home. The neighbor was old, and very southern. Her kitchen was filled with patterns of yellow and knotty pine. She gave me cookies and lemonade and we sat at her kitchen table. It had an oilcloth tablecloth; she had very white hair and had the radio tuned to a devotional station.
I was so dreamy then, or maybe that’s just the way memories are (foggy, blue, the smells stand out and sometimes they’re all you remember). We lived in that house for three years until we moved to Ohio, where there are no big magnolias like we have here.