I remember the feeling of dirt between toes and the filthy bottoms of feet as we pounded through the backyard on that path that we carved. We worked so hard on that path, clearing the leaves and twigs, creating boundaries, determining with engineered precision where it should lead and where each turn should bend.
We sat huddled in make-shift tents, lean-tos really, but imagined to be great, sprawling wigwams and shelter from the elements--just the structures we needed to turn our network of branch-lined paths into a habitable village. And soon we'd stocked our cloth and tree homes with tools and dishes and treasures discovered along the way. Our appearances, too, morphed with evidence of our play adventure, in some ways by our own doing--costumes found at the bottom of a dress-up chest discarded from past Halloweens--and some organically, real mud smeared across our faces as we worked and wiped sweat, crunched leaves dotting our hair while we rested or rolled around.
The call for lunch sounded from the porch. We eagerly ran for food, stomachs grumbling, but with hope in our eyes that asked if we could take food back to our home away from home and feast in our backyard village. But it wasn't even a question, was it? Lunch had been prepared with exactly that in mind, picnic-style food piled atop paper plates and drinks in thermoses for a safe journey back to camp.
That summer we spent weeks in that far away village--far away in our minds, but, really, located in the safety of our backyard. The back of the house was covered in windows, and though we felt masked behind aged trees, grown and independent and wild and adventurous, our mother's eyes were always watching, peeking through those windows. She never rolled her eyes at what she saw. She didn't worry about the yard or if our faces were too dirty or if our play was constructive enough. Instead she had full confidence in our adventure and the depth of our imagination, the sturdiness of our summer legs and the good a warm afternoon spent beneath shady trees can do for a kid.
Now, grown, I imagine her watching from those windows, coffee steaming from that pedestal coffee mug--the one that had grapes on the side, that came from the collection that matched our dishes. I don't even have to wonder if the view brought her pleasure or pride; I know it did. I know it did because now I know what it's like to watch from the kitchen window and see you in your playhouse, creating a world that is just yours. You come inside filthy, and I love it because I remember how that's the sign of a good play and there are only so many years in one's life that dirt can be worn so well.
When I stand at the window watching you, I hope for you the childhood I had. I hope you know that rapture and that peace, the days free from worry, where your mind is instead consumed with the notion that the world is yours. I hope it for you because it was such a happy time, and I believe that such a childhood remains at the center of me. I desperately want to give that to you.
And if I can give that to you, then that would make me more like her, which is what I always hope to be.