And as one of my students so eloquently stated on Facebook earlier today--so do bugs.
The last couple of days have bothered me a bit. Part of it is related to some writing I've been doing, which is only tangentially related. In creating a memory for a character, I pulled out a memory of my own:
Summer evening, the air just barely cool as the sun goes down. My brothers are about seven and three respectively. My father is out on the porch, standing over a grill--probably charcoal, which brings its own distinctive smell. Mom is inside, finishing up corn on the cob. The window in the family room is open, letting the cool air and the sounds of the crickets and the cicadas into the house. Outside, I can hear a dog bark, Mittens, our adorable mutt who loved Steven to distraction. The house smells like cake and icing from the birthday cake Mom decorated earlier in the day. She shooed Steven and I outside to play, but I took a glass of ice water and a book and sat up in the fort and read while Steven ran around the back yard.
If it's close to the Fourth of July, we sit on the front porch instead of the back porch. Dad pops some popcorn in the big pot on top of the stove and and dumps it in the top of the big cake keeper, which serves as a family style bowl for us. Mom pours on the season salt, and the boys and I chase lightning bugs around the front yard while Mom and Dad sit on the porch and rock. The same cool air gives us a shiver as we watch the fireworks, and I am filled with excitement, not just because of the holiday, but because the next day is my birthday, and Mom says, "do you know what I was doing ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen--twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four years ago right now?"
Somewhere, somehow, I feel the cool air and hear the Reds on the radio. I think it is perhaps because my father's old truck had no air conditioning, and he rode around with the windows down and the game on, and I would go with him. Still, somewhere in the background of the crickets and cicadas, I hear the crackle of AM radio and the laughing voices of Marty Brennamen and Joe Nuxhall, and I hear my mother tease my father about the fact that if Dave Concepcion hadn't hit a home run, he would have missed my birth entirely.
These are the days when Steven's best friends are the hordes of imaginary Tiny Guys, when Sam's main mode of locomotion is a stick horse. These are the days when I ride my bike over into Stonybrook to spend time with Paige and Katy, and we make cards on the front porch, and enjoy our American Girl club in the bonus room over their garage. My father works in Winchester and comes home for lunch every day, we visit my Mamaw Fannie after church on Sunday (my father loses his tie the moment we get in the car), our house smells like cake all the time, and I can sit at the bar and watch my mother turn globs of icing into roses. My curfew is not ten or eleven or midnight or whenever I decide to get home, but I must be home by dusk so I am not riding my bike home in the dark.
These are the days before depression and medication and lupus.
Still, the days are not bad. Steven and I drive to Eastern every day--I am eighteen and he is fourteen and we are both sophomores in college. I make the twenty minute drive listening to my own music, while he sits in the passenger seat with his headphones in. Eastern is a place of friends and books and fun times. It smells of that unique dorm mold and mildew that you can only quite detect outside in the spring time, and the fourth floor of the library smells of old musty books.
Last night, I stood out on my porch in Murfreesboro. The air was cool, but I did not hear the crickets sing, or smell charcoal, or hear the comforting crackle of the radio.
Today, I drove the same path home from Richmond to Winchester, but even Eastern is changing. The new science building is a badly needed behemoth.
This afternoon, I drove downtown and found that another bastion of my childhood had disappeared. It was bad enough when the Corner Drug was forced to move out of the building where my Papaw Doug would take me to eat; now it has disappeared altogether. It hurt, deep inside.
This evening, I sat and talked to my youngest brother. He has started a new job, has a girlfriend, has bought a car. Somehow, in the last two weeks since I've seen him, he stopped being a boy and started being a man. But he has been home alone, taking care of Mom, for quite a while now, and he's probably been a man for quite some time. It just took me until today to recognize it.
This has turned into a more lengthy post than I intended, and it's completely un-book-related, which was not my intention when I started writing this blog. But perhaps I needed the catharsis of letting go of some of these memories. Perhaps I needed the catharsis to hold on to them.