Sunday, September 16, 2007

Old Ghosts

What a strange day...

I've been short tempered lately. Things weighing heavy on my mind. Lots of things coming into play. Joys but stresses too. Haven't been connecting lately so I took my kids out to a park today for a hike. The sun was shining brightly and the wind felt like fall knocking on the door to be let in.

We walked along the path and the sun light through the leaves dappled us in warmth and shade alike. It was a long walk through the woods, but so beautiful to be among them again. It's been too long for others... it had been too long for me.

I've always felt at peace in the woods and today was no exception. We sat and talked about school and how things were when I was a kid, and where I grew up. I enjoyed the moment as we all stopped and ate lunch, but as turbulent as my life has been of late, I knew it was too good to last.

I was right.

There's something that strikes to the very core of a parent when they hear their child scream in pain.

Drawn to the scent of our lunch, bees attacked out of the blue, sparing none of us from stings. My son got stung twice on his hand, once on his arm, and again on the back of his neck. For various reasons stemming from his early childhood, my son deals with pain on an entirely different level than most other kids his age. so by the time we made it back out of the woods again, he wasn't even complaining of the pain.

My daughter was stung in the scalp of her head, her neck, and her hand. This was her first time ever getting stung, and the pain was a very new sensation. Tears streamed down her face as she ranted about hating bees and this particular park we were in.

I got hit on a finger and on my stomach when a bee decided that beneath my shirt would be a nice place to hide. And though the pain was there, I was more pissed off than anything else.

After running our asses off to get out of the woods, I packed everyone up and drove to the closest pharmacy to grab some medicine and began applying it in the parking lot outside.

While we were there, a cop car raced by, then another, then four more on it's heels, and all of them were driving balls out fast wherever they were headed. There were other sirens in the distance and whatever it was, it was something bad; something a bit worse than a fender bender in traffic.

Since we hadn't been out that long, and the medicine was starting to dull the pain of the bee stings, I asked the kids if they wanted to go home or drive for a while and see where I grew up. They both said yes, so we hit the highway on 83 South.

A few miles later, I had the highway to myself, save for an older sedan right behind me. From nowhere I see a white sports car in the passing lane, and the driver is like rolling thunder, easily pushing 120 mph.

And right on his ass is a trail of cop cars. Whatever had went down, I suddenly found myself in the thick of it.

The driver passes me in a blur - too close for comfort. It was one of those odd, surreal moments when you know that fate has just flipped a coin and you're not quite sure yet if you're going to get the lucky toss.

The cops go by, their engines nothing but roaring stutters as they pass.

I'm roughly a 1/2 mile from the next exit off of 83 South, and I see the sports car cut lanes, swerving over to get off.

I'm familiar with this exit. Obviously, he's not.

It's a tight curve and he's going way too fast. Maybe with something else he'd have made it, one of those high end sports cars that look like they run on rails. But not today baby, not this time.

The smoke of freshly laid tire rubber spewed up in huge plumes as the car spun out and slammed straight into a dirt bank.

Cops seemed to swarm from their cars and for a moment, I was reminded of the bees that had attacked us earlier. I saw a car do a doughnut and back up the exit ramp to block it off. Two more swerved to the far side in case the driver tried to run, and by the time I made it to the exit, an officer, pistol drawn, had yanked the driver free.

And we continued on.

I drove past the elementary school I went to, saw the big yellow banner out front stating that the school was celebrating 75 years. I remembered the big Sycamore trees out front, colossal things that looked older than time. In front of those trees was the spot where I first told a girl I loved her. I was only eight but it was real enough. I told my daughter about her; a girl I had my first crush on, Ruth Koyce, and how it wasn't until gave her up, that she decided to like me back. Of course, by then, it was too late, as I was moving to Pennsylvania.

I drove down the road I used to live on and old ghosts came to me. A friend who had two horses, Pepsi and Coke. A farmer whose hayfields my grandfather used to work while I sat in the branches of a mulberry tree and read books. Another boy I got into a fight with.

I saw patches of woods that I used to wander off in, much too far for my mother's comfort. I saw a downed tree trunk still available as a makeshift bridge; amazing it's still there after all these years.

The house I grew up in though... all gone. Nothing there anymore; not even the barn that I used to play in. The entire hillside has been left to grow, split in half with a wishbone driveway of asphalt, splitting off to homes hidden far away from the main road.

In my mind I saw what used to be there... the springhouse where the water used to be icy cold and sweet as anything you'd ever drink. I used to play in the streams behind it, catching crayfish and salamanders in the summer. I recall the chorus of spring frogs announcing the change of seasons and how I used to watch heat lightning and storms roll in through the valley; already looking forward to the lullabye sound of rain on the metal roof above my bedroom.

Not even the foundation of the old barn is still there; though I close my eyes and can still smell the turpentine and hay and freshly harvested corn that used to be inside. How many days had I spent there, making forts and secret hiding spots? Finding litters of wild kittens burrowed in the straw; watching the barn swallows make their nests.

I buried my first dog on that hillside. I know where his body is, even though it's grown over with wild roses and Sumac now. To the right of the property is a wide path with stone walls, and in an open meadow is where my father buried his first hounds after one awful, pivotal night.

To the left is a white pine tree, tall and grown so much higher with time. Beneath it's branches we used to have a smoke house, and I had a tire swing on it. For a while I had a pet raccoon and the day he decided to climb up, I received a scar on my hand when he bit me.

My mother took me sledding on the hillside in the winter. The pond where I played in the summer and got stung by a catfish has long since been filled in. Oak trees and field mustard and honeysuckle have covered any footprint there may have been.

All round me it's grown up. It could be the entrance to a park or some nature preserve. Everything of my childhood is gone except for the ghosts I feel running around in my head and inside my heart.

As a child growing up there, I found my imagination.

As an adult going back, I'm not sure what I just lost or why I feel so haunted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like a bittersweet day. But one I am sure you will all remember, for different reasons.

Be Well, and Heal Quickly,

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of ghosts,
are you still alive?


3:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home