Barefoot Summers

I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW – Women on Writing’s “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” mass-blogging event celebrating the release of Finding Emma by Steena Holmes.

Steena is a woman who believes that “in the end, all things succumb…to the passions of your heart.” Steena’s life revolves around her family, friends and fiction. Add some chocolate into the mix and she’s living the good life. She took those passions and made them a dream come true by pouring her heart into each of her stories.

Finding Emma has quickly become a bestseller. Proceeds from each book will be donated to The Missing Children’s Society of Canada – an organization dedicated to reuniting families. Visit www.mcsc.ca for more information.

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating the “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” day, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Finding Emma! 

To read Steena’s about childhood memories and view a list of other blogs participating in the “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” day please visit The Muffin.

 

 

It’s been getting warmer lately – even though it’s still officially spring, it feels like summer. And who can help but think of childhood in the summer? There was something magical about the freedom that came with those long, sunny days. Even once I was old enough to have a summer job, and even now that there is no difference  for me whatsoever between the last day of school and the first day of summer, my childhood memories are brought back to me by a sweet summer breeze.

There is a part of me that still wants to make-believe a world full of fairies and magic, that still cannot think of dandelions as weeds rather than pretty flowers to make necklaces with,  that still wants to run through tall grass and talk to trees like the Disney Pocahontas, that still sees summer as a freer time when anything is possible.

This week I found a place that my childhood self would have loved. The thing is, there is probably nothing special about it to the general grown-up. Every so often we came across some purple clover blossoms,

but they were few and far between, not to mention much shorter than the tall grass. I had to watch my feet in order to pick them out. And other than that the field was just a patch of weeds to the unimaginative eye, like Thumbelina first thought the Vale of the Fairies was.

Thumbelina sings and the “patch of ordinary weeds” becomes a garden bursting with color and life, winter becomes summer, and she becomes a fairy. Every child’s imagination has the same power that Thumbelina’s song has.

To a kid the field I found this week is an unexplored wilderness full of possibilities. The grass would come up to the waist of childhood me, all the way up to my chest in some places. And the field is so big even the dullest imagination could pretend that it stretched for miles and miles until the suburban cloned husks of homes in the background were invisible.

In that field, childhood me might have been a tiny fairy, stranded with a broken wing in a human’s backyard, surrounded by birdhouses the human had put up around the garden. Or childhood me might have been a young Native American girl, not unlike Pocahontas, bored with the quiet life and unaware of the adventures to come. Or childhood me might have been content to just run, barefoot and free in the tall grass and sing all her favorite songs as loudly as possible, knowing that no one would be able to hear.

In the middle of the field, surrounded by several acres of flat land overcome by natural grass, was a tree. A single tree in the center of a small circle of dirt, the only clearing in the whole field.

Trees are one of those things for me. I just can’t get enough of them. I am a tree-hugger. In a book I read as a kid the main character tried kissing a tree once, and said they tasted like blackberries. I’m not ashamed to say that I tried it after reading about it. I wouldn’t necessarily do it again, but I’d say smokey blackberries is a fairly accurate, if romantic, description.

When I was little, my brother and I used to climb trees at the park almost more than we would play on the playground there. I preferred to do so barefoot. If the bottom branch of a tree was too high for us, our dad would pick us up and place us on it

so we could climb up the rest of the way as far as we could go.

One of my best friends, Katie, has said that her first impression of me was that I was a wild child because I had to climb down barefoot from halfway up a twenty-foot tree in order to be introduced to her.

This particular tree in the field this week reminded me of Grandmother Willow from the Disney movie, Pocahontas.

You should know that Pocahontas was huge for me as a child. I saw it twice in theaters, a lot for a six-year-old, and I got the VHS for my seventh birthday.

Maybe the movie wasn’t exactly accurate, but I loved it. I adored the way Pocahontas respected nature, the way she was awed by it. I knew the words to “Colors of the Wind” by heart and could sing it without music before the movie even came out (the song was in a preview before The Lion King, and I probably watched the preview more than the movie it preceded).

In any case, this tree, rooted in an almost perfect circle of earth, in the middle of an enormous field,  felt like a magic place. Summer brought me back to my childhood self.

 

 

 

To close, I want to include a summer childhood memory of Cinnamin’s, the main character in my novel, Finding ‘Ohana. Truth be told, it is my own childhood memory, with only the least significant details changed:

 

When we got off the plane, our first stop was the beach. As soon as our feet touched sand, we dropped our enormous suitcases that would get us through the semester and made a run for the waves. We had worn our swimsuits under our clothing for hours and hours just for that moment.

I was shocked at how warm the water was. Of course I knew the air was warm in Hawai‘i, but I thought all bodies of water were inherently cold, no matter what part of the world they were in. The next thing I knew, I was neck-deep in salt water. I floated with the waves, letting them wash away my exhaustion from the flight. One went higher than I expected, and I found myself sputtering the salt out of my mouth.

I was instantly brought back to our family trip to Florida. I could not have been more than eight years old. Billy was just a toddler, playing in the sand with Mom while Dad took me out past where I could touch the ocean floor. He held me above the waves, swinging me in and out of them as they swelled around us. I was scared to be where I couldn’t reach, where I had no control, but I trusted my dad. He laughed at my joyful screams. It was one of my happiest memories of him, probably because I was still innocent – the part of me he could not accept had not emerged yet. I had not had the taste of salt water in my mouth and nose since then, until I was in another ocean, thousands of miles away.

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6 responses to “Barefoot Summers

  1. Pingback: Exciting Upcoming Posts! | Sierra Dawn, Write On

  2. I love the photos you shared. Oh, to climb a tree again or explore a field. I guess one of the best things about becoming a parent, aunt, grandparent, etc is to re-live our childhood. Although I’m not sure if I’ll ever be climbing a tree again! 🙂

  3. How wonderful that you brought in the trees. I love them too. We had a large crabapple tree at the head of the driveway. In the summer I could sit on this one special branch and watch the world and believe nobody knew I was there. They probably didn’t. I often have my head down looking for those little magical spots. They make me smile. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Pictures 6 and 7 are priceless. If you’ll ever write a Middle Grade book, picture 6 will be great for the cover. It’s not clear why you write “You” in line 6 from the bottom. I get that “You” is Dad, but she isn’t talking to him.

  5. Thank you all for commenting!

    Margo, I’ve noticed the reliving childhood thing even just with the kids I babysit, but I can’t wait to do it all again with my own kids!

    Rita, I also had my own special spot in my childhood yard. We didn’t have any trees big enough to climb (the pictures in my post were taken at a park), but we had a line of pine trees against the fence in our backyard and I would go between them and the fence and pretend it was my secret hideout!

    Giora, actually, the original version of “Finding ‘Ohana” is written as a letter to Cinnamin’s parents. The second person comes in every once in a while. Right now, however, I’m tinkering with a draft that may leave out the letter aspect until the final chapter. I’ll edit into the post the new version of this excerpt, though, even if I don’t keep the second person out in the final draft. It’ll be easier to understand out of context. Thanks for the catch!

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