Originally published December 15, 2009.
Childhood memories sneak up on me, like a shooting star in the night. Mornings spent watching Little Bear and Madeline. Days when brother still lived at home, sharing bunk beds and talking past bedtime. Making tunnels in the sand at the water park, our eyes full of delight as the water flowed through something we created with our own little hands.
Driving with mom and Clint across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas to the wonderland called Tennessee, playing the license plate game, bickering over who would sit shotgun and overdosing on McDonald's greasy fries the whole trip long. The south, with its trees and creeks and lightning bugs that we'd catch and save in a jar. A little night light on the cupboard in our room, near Nan's pretty jewelry boxes and trinkets that I'd stare at with wonder, too delicate to touch. Memories of me in my pink-flowered bikini, no more than five years of age, twirling in the rain on Nan's backyard wooden deck. Each drop of rain planting smiles and laughter on my face. When Nan would bake all day long. Walking through fields of hay. Dressing the bed with new white sheets while Nan and I danced around the room, listening to a cassette of Pocahontas Colors of the Wind. It was our song.
I remember Christmas eve nights, when brother and I would hear a clatter, certain that it was Chris Kringle's reindeer. Days when our imagination was our closest friend. We could be whatever we wanted to be. Family trips to Disneyland or camp grounds in Oregon, admiring the ocean and running along the sand with our family dog Xena running beside me, arms spread out wide, ready to take off and fly at any moment. The vacation where I lived in my Nala Lion King turquoise sweater and peace-flowered hat.
Days when my truest treasures were porcelain dolls and polly pockets. Where a day spent playing catch and jumping on the trampoline were the best days of all. The smell of summertime. Saturday morning cartoons with Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. Watching movies, our favorites like The Sandlot, Mighty Ducks and Hook. When we thought those days would never change and we could stay young forever. No one told us Neverland wasn't real. ★