I don't remember a happier time in my whole life than when my family lived in Sylvia, Kansas. Sylvia is the ultimate in small towns. A utopia for childhood. Just under three hundred residents. We lived across the street from the park. Could you imagine a more blank canvas? We lived there when I was very young. That is to say, we moved away in the middle of my Kindergarten year.
But we lived in this massive, grey house with an enormous front porch where we would sit when it rained. Sometimes we'd sit there with a bowl between us and snap green beans that my dad grew in the garden. One day, I was sitting on the front porch when the huge tree in our front yard fell over. In the middle of the afternoon. It just fell over. My mother came running outside to make sure everyone was still alive. We were. They said it was struck by lightning. I found it to be confusing at most. I remember thinking that this was one of those things that would be difficult for me to comprehend for my age, so I let the grown ups deal with it. Sometimes in my childhood I was able to accept that I didn't understand things.
Sometimes my mother would go for walks after dinner when it was not so hot and the sun wasn't so high. I always went with her, and by the time we got back to the house, then you could see the moon sometimes or the stars. We'd walk down one of the two paved roads in town. We'd walk for miles and miles and miles on my little legs. We'd walk past the pasture where two cows lived. Mom would let me pick the long grass and hold it out to them though the fence and they would eat from my hand. I was always a little scared that this would finally be the time that they ate my little hand but they never did and, besides, my mom was standing right there. What cow would have the gall to eat a child's hand right in front of her mother? So I felt safe and we would pet their faces until it was time to go inside. On the way home, we'd find the moon and my mom would sing a song that she still sings sometimes. Even now that we are both a lot older.
I see the moon and the moon sees me
Shining through the leaves of the old oak tree.
My perspective as a little girl really altered some facts. In reality, our house was grey but it was not very big. Our porch only had three steps even though I remember falling down on it and there being at least a dozen landings. I was a bloody wreck. That was probably exaggerated, too. My mom probably wouldn't have minded taking walks alone every once in a while after chasing after four kids all by herself in the summertime. We probably only walked about a half a mile at most. I probably whined the whole time. Also, cows don't eat people and if they did, they probably wouldn't have the presence of mind to care about who was around to see it happen.
Sometimes I think about what kind of person I want to be when I'm a grown up. I used to think that my ideal, adult life would involve loft apartments in urban areas. Exposed brick walls and modern furniture. Brushed aluminum sinks and stained concrete counter tops. I would be a stoic writer-type. I would wear black, leather boots. But the more I think about it. The more I live my life the way it is now, the more in-love I fall with my current surroundings and lifestyle, the more that I'd just like some simple basics. I want a space that has a porch to sit and hull strawberries and some grass and trees (even if those trees might accidentally fall over on a clear afternoon). I want to write things like this and go as barefoot as possible for as long as possible. I would love an unpaved road to walk down at night. When I think about the kind of woman that I want to be, I want to be everything that I remember about my mother from those nights when we'd take walks together.
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the one I love.