In my memory “the girls”, my sisters, hid daily in our next-door neighbor’s pine paneled basement. Those older kids, almost teenagers, played whole-heartedly. All summer. The Game Of Life. Clue. Cootie. Cribbage. Endless Monopoly games.
As a kid of five or six they grudgingly allowed me to tag along to the basement refuge my sisters loved. I promised to be quiet and swore not to be annoying. The sweet boy-next-door, a young teenager, tossed me over the sofa back into the fluffy pillows. I loved that the most. Then he dove himself with a laugh and Fosbury Flop before it was even a thing. My hero. The black and white TV blinked non-stop gray. A Ping-Pong ball clicked time with our fun. I understood my sisters’ heaven.
That musty basement was real perfection. And then it wasn’t any more. The afternoon when it changed the college-age sister of the sweet boy whose basement we loved stood on the steps yelling “Don’t you kids have your own damn home?” She was fierce and strong and scary as hell. We slunk up the stairs, hearts pounding. Tails tucked, heads down. Unwelcome refugees. Hugging the wall against her glare. Shame.
My sisters continued playing next door but I stayed home. And when I was old enough I spent most of my time on the creek in the woods behind our neighborhood. I loved the green quiet where I basked in made-up adventures. I was a daring hero with a pocketknife and rope coiled on my belt. Keeping my distance with imaginary armor.
A photo of my 31-year-old dad holding
The 3 month old me on his lap in my
Childhood album caught my attention today
He holding me I’ve had this photo for years
And thought I knew it he looking down
On me blanket wrapped but today I
Took a fresh look and saw the rotary
Phone on the wall and the pass-through
Window over the draped kitchen table
His slicked back black hair and handsome
Silhouette my round cheeks his crisp
White shirt with turned up sleeves but mostly
I saw his gaze looking down at our hands
I followed his eyes how had I never noticed
He looking at my five tiny fingers holding
Wrapping one of his fingers tightly
Verdant virgin babies form lacy filigree patterns
Newborn leaves bathe in glistening dewy post-partum shades
Avocado, mint, tea green fresh growth hues
Stretching toward warmth, craning toward light
Wonder of the new and fledgling floods senses untested
Ancient course leather peaks through infant veils
Grudgingly awakened bark irritably tolerates fresh buds
Aged crust squelches bloom’s excitement at all that’s new
Cynical antique skin resists and squirms at youth’s glee
Yet, brave youthful promise rejects craggy elderly gloom
Dancing in glimmering beams, absorbing the sun’s tattoo
Nature’s stamp of life and light fuels bantling bliss