If I had known those summers of my childhood weren’t forever I would have listened longer to the busy grasshoppers whirring across the country fields and the chirping of ink black crickets as night fell. I’d have lain just a little longer on the quilt with my cousin watching clouds making picture shows against the crystal blue sky. I would have run my toes through the hot sand of our driveway just one more time before skipping up the back steps to have a tomato sandwich for lunch and just one more time in the delicious cool sand under a twilight sky when Mama called me in for supper. I would have sat just a little longer in the doorway of my grandaddy’s tobacco barn to smell the rich gold leaves drying there. I would have stayed with Daddy all the while he turned the ice cream churn and heaped on a little more ice and salt as he worked to make frozen deliciousness for us on a sweltering hot Sunday afternoon. And I would have asked for just one more scoop of its cold creamy sweetness. I would have stayed longer in the kitchen listening to jar lids popping and sealing the cans of green beans and tomatoes that Mama and I labored all morning to finish knowing how good they would taste on the cold winter nights to come.
Had I known the autumns of my childhood would end all too soon I would have risen just a little earlier to feel the first chilly morning of autumn, to see the last of the morning glories blooming and caressing the spent garden, and watch the mist lingering on the river. I would have paid more attention to the smell of newly sharpened pencils, the feel of excitement coming from my classmates on the edge of beginning a new school year, the sound of the high school band on the eve of the first football game of the year, and I’d have ridden just one more time around on the Ferris wheel at the State Fair. I would have watched my daddy’s bird dogs running in the field just once more before turning away, walked a little farther into the woods with my daddy and asked him about one more tree I spied whose leaves were falling around us in the autumn wind. I would have watched more closely as my mama made her giblet gravy for the turkey roasting in the oven, lingered longer after the Thanksgiving meal soaking up the stories my relatives loved to tell.
My childhood winters still abide warm and sweet in memory but oh! How I long for the sparkle of sunshine through frosted panes in the early morning kitchen with my mama setting a steaming bowl of oatmeal on the table. I would like to wait until the last of the rich yellow butter had melted completely and swirled out into the sweet cream before taking one single bite. How I would savor the thrill buzzing through my every fiber anticipating Christmas morning’s fullness coming down. And oh, my! The true joy of a winter snow – no school, tramping through fields blanketed in milky whiteness, crystals glistening on every tree branch, playing outside all day and never minding the cold. I would dawdle when Mama called just long enough to witness the icy horizon swallow the sun in one crisp gulp.
And those eternally soft yellow-green springs have gone the way of my other childhood seasons – budding and flowering in a pallet of colors – rich, spectacular, singular. Finding a new litter of kittens hidden in a box in our garage, watching my daddy till up soil for a new garden, smelling its earthy smell, seeing my mama kneel to lovingly sow her zinnia seeds, searching eagerly for colored eggs hidden among verdant grass and burgeoning foliage. How could I have known that such moments are not endless?
Seasons continue to come and go but there are pieces of them that have faded as the years have progressed and moved me into adulthood almost without notice. And now into my seventh decade I recall those little things that seemed so ordinary at the time – so very precious now.
Summer is still summer, winter is still winter – and yet not. Now I see them through a very different lens…..