Friday, February 11, 2011


SUMMER '93: After dinner the three of us went outside and sat on the platform of the swing set Dad had built for us.

“What are we going to do this summer?” Derek asked, calling our meeting to order.    

Mark was holding a thick stick in his hands and pulled a piece of Mom’s kitchen twine out of his pocket.  He tied it to the end of the stick and whipped it in the air.  I covered my head, even though he was aiming it in the opposite direction.
“Maybe we should go on a long bike ride,” Derek suggested, reaching out and grabbing Mark’s stick.  He threw it to the ground.  “You have to hurry up and learn how to ride, Mark.”
“Hey!” Mark protested, focused on the stick.  He wriggled off the platform and climbed down the ladder to retrieve his new toy, but Derek jumped easily off the other end and picked it up before Mark had his feet on the ground.  He spun around and whipped Mark on the back of  his legs.
“We can’t go on a long bike ride.  We’re not allowed off the street,” I said logically, ignoring their antics.  Mark picked a rock up from the ground and recklessly hurled it towards Derek’s head.  He was always reckless.  Derek dodged the rock and it landed with a thud against the side of the house.  The smiles faded from their faces.  My disapproving frown remained intact.  We stopped moving and stared at the window, waiting breathlessly for Dad or Mom to appear.  A minute passed, and nothing happened.  We relaxed and Mark dove across the rocky lawn and landed on top of his stick.  

“Ha!” he cried victoriously, returning to his feet.

I sat down on one of the swings, pumping my legs, swinging higher and higher.  I tilted my head backwards until my hair brushed the ground when I came back down.  I could see the moon, still pale in the dusky sky just above the green roof of our house.  I stopped swinging and stared at it intently.  I heard there was a man up there, but I never understood what that meant.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“People find fossils and bones in their backyards.  Maybe I can find a whole dinosaur skeleton,” Derek said, returning to the important task of planning our summer.  “I’m going to be an archaeologist one day.  I might find Noah’s ark.”  By the triumphant tone in his voice, you’d think he’d already found it.

Derek looked at Mark.  “What are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked in a superior voice, certain that nobody could top his high and lofty ambitions.  He tilted his head back and looked down his nose at Mark, raising his eyebrows and clearing his throat.  Mark looked up, distracted by the grasshopper that was clinging to the end of his stick.  He shrugged.  “I’m going to stay at home and live with Mom and Dad.”

“You can’t do that!” Derek scoffed.  “How are you going to make money?”
The grasshopper jumped off the stick and into grass and Mark returned his full attention to Derek.  “I have a bank account.”

“You can’t live off of five dollars for the rest of your life,” I informed him unapologetically.  There were so many things I wanted to do; I couldn’t wait to grow up.  I looked at Mark and wondered how he could be so calm about his intentions to stay at home with our parents for the rest of his life.  Who wanted that?

“Where ya goin’, Daddy?” called Mark, pulling me back from my thoughts.  The screen door banged shut and I heard the familiar jingle of the car keys as Dad pulled them from the pocket of his well-worn jeans.
“Well,” he said, looking over at us.  “I’m going to get ice cream for Mom.  I didn’t think you’d want any.”  We laughed and started running towards the car.  Dad scooped Mark up as he ran past him, and turned him upside down.  “Where do you think you’re going?”  He teased.  Mom stood at the screen door laughing as Mark squealed and tried to free himself.  Dad started spinning in circles and Mark’s head fell back and his eyes bulged as he laughed so hard that no noise came from his mouth.  I smiled.  Living at home with Dad and Mom wasn’t such a bad thing.  For now.

Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting back at the swingset with our melting ice cream cones.  We had all ordered the same bright blue bubble gum ice cream,  and we counted the gum pieces to see who got the most, talking little but enjoying the twilit evening. 


We're all grown up now.  

I am a wife.  A mother.  I am still logical. 

Derek is not an archeologist.

Mark lived with his parents until he died.

I think back to those carefree, twilit evenings when we were free to dream.  Life was good.  Easy.  We were undaunted.  Full of hope.  We were invincible.  Blissfully unaware of the trials we would face only ten years later.  

Today, we are still headed in the same direction: straight for tomorrow. 

 Cherish each moment.  Dare to dream.  Love each other like it's your last day together.  

When tomorrow gets here, yesterday is a long time ago.


Cherish said...

Beautiful! This brought me back to those dusty summer evenings on Inglewood, when Mark was still just a toddler and we filled our time with bubbles and make believe.

southerncountryelegant said...

This reminds me of summer nights sitting on a porch swing while the children chased fireflies .... good times.
Thanks for writing such a touching story.