When I was young…
Why oh, why does that seem to be my favorite place to go when I have time on my hands? Does anyone else go there? I suppose that for many, it is not a place that they want to go, but for me? I have learned to sort out the happy from the sad, the bitter from the sweet, and the wholly joyous from the broken.
I walked this morning, trying to beat the heat. I do wilt in the hot and muggy air of late summer, so I am just sort of dragging butt– being hit with these unusually hot temps the end of May and early June. Nearly 90 degrees round these parts…and the creeks are low!
The parking lot at the community trail is packed with vehicles…all sporting bike racks. I decide that my MP3 player is better left in the car today; very important to hear the approach of bicycles from behind. I am certain that there are some Tour De France contenders staying in shape on this local trail…and I also think that given the speeds at which I have witnessed some of them flying by me…there WILL be a winner this year from my neck of the woods. Some of them even wear those professional looking bike shorts and the trendy gloves, lol… Oh, I am just having fun. I know that they serve a purpose–with all of the padding in just the right places.
After putting the top up on the car, I spray myself down with SSS, bug repellent/skin softener. I buy it by the quart! Keeping covered with clothing to prevent bug bites is not an option in this weather. I am down to shorts and a matching two tone pink tank top. Lots of bare skin to cover with the spray.
I watch a woman leave the trail with a German shepherd looking dog, in full body harness. The dog spies me and begins to bark and growl. I just shake my head as I wonder, why does she bring such an animal to a public trail that is chock full of little kids on bikes and even tricycles today? I know that it is America, but common sense and consideration go a long way. That is the exact reason that I never bring Gus to this trail to walk him… he is a wonderful dog, but he takes his job, as protector, quite seriously!
I head down the trail. The sides are overgrown and creeping in on the edges, which is unsettling to me. I have long had a bit of a phobia of not being able to see a long wide area around me. The woods are dark and deep. Sun dapples in rare places and lights the dame’s rockets into fluorescent purple color!
A man passes me, huffing and puffing as he peddles his bike. He is overweight, and inside I give him many kudos for getting out and moving. He must have turned at the parking lot, because he passes me going the other way in less than a minute. Ahead of me he pulls over and takes a drink of water. Then he starts to cough. As I near, he says, “I swallowed a bug!”
I smile back at him and say, “There are such better choices for breakfast!”
He laughs as I continue on…
The wild (species) geraniums are winding down. They float airily upon fine stems and their light purple luminescence floats and dances on the lightest breeze.
As I walk, I smell the scent of roses… faintly at first, and then as I walk past a place in the trail that is surrounded by white multiflora roses, the scents surrounds me. In the heat and the humidity, it is thick enough to slice. I am at once…taken back to another place and to another time….
It was a hot June day, in 1976. I worked at the bar a mile up the road from my house. I cleaned the deep-fryers and the freezers…on Saturday mornings. And when I was allowed, I cooked in the kitchen too, on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Early evening and the bar was nearly empty…and in walked Mr. Heaven. His name was Dave– 6 feet something of blond haired and blue eyed smiles. He was sweet on me, and had asked me out a couple of times. I had never said yes. And I would have had to sneak anyhow; my parents did not allow me to date.
He ordered a six inch pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms… and when I took it out to him, he asked me what I was doing later? Then asked me if I had ever seen his car.
We walked over to the window and he pointed to a 1968 Chevy malibu–ragtop, sitting in the evening sunlight.
“Wanna drive it?”
“Oh, I don’t even have my learner’s permit yet?”
“So what?” he added with a devilish grin.
He had dimples…one dominant one… for sure, on his chin.
I agreed to drive his car after I was done working at 10 pm.
He was just a cute guy that came into the bar..and there were lots of them that flirted with me…but I was just 16 and most of them saw me for what I was… very young. But Dave, well, he was only 19 and just a kid himself.
He walked into the bar at a quarter to ten…and bought a quart of Budweiser, carrying it out in a brown paper bag.
At ten, I stepped out into warm evening air, and the darkness and the newly felt mystery of what lay on the other side of that wide gulf that separated a girl from a woman. He sat in his car, smiling like the cat that ate the canary. I walked over and he said, “Hop in, we will find an old dirt road that you can try it out on.”
I hopped into the passenger seat and we were on our way. We found that old dusty road, and at the bottom of the hill, at ruff run, we switched seats. He explained as I went through the motions…and I can still smell the roses on the breeze and feel that smile spreading across my lips as the car began to move.
Up over the steep winding hill that led out of that deep dark hollow. Giant steps I was taking into a big big world… Near the top of the hollow, where the road wound sharply right, left, right, I had a little trouble finding just where the car should be on the road! Dave leaned over and took the steering wheel and suggested that he take over now.
We switched seats again, and for a moment, I was just that observant girl… watching fireflies and smelling wild roses…
We drove for miles it seemed and we talked and talked. I felt the wind on my hair,and then his arm on my shoulder. It was lightning running through my body… and I knew that there could never be anything so wonderful as this in all of my life. I was so alive…
He took me back the old farm lane where I lived, stopping where the infamous electric fence crossed the lane at the bottom of the big hill… and it was there that he kissed me. It was no little girl kiss, it was no ‘you are my friend’ kiss, it was THE kiss that held the promise of the world and all that it contained. The kiss that said, “There is so much more to come!” And it was there that I hopped out of his car…and he turned around to avoid the also infamous “Louie”, lol, father of five daughters.
I walked back the rest of the lane, drunken with fireflies and roses… and the thoughts of dreamy blue eyes. Somewhere deep inside I just knew that he would fit the quote, “You are like my favorite pair of jeans; I love you, my mother hates you and you fit so well.”
It was the best summer of my life. He was fun, and open to things. He tried riding horses, but it was more fun riding around in the convertible. I had my pile of friends that normally came along, and he had a couple of brothers that he included in nearly everything that we did.
We swam, and we went places together…and yes, we drank. My mom really did not like him, but my dad did. I was allowed to date him, just not stay out late. It was freedom, like I had never known!
It was the summer that I began as a girl, and ended as a woman in love. We were just two kids, with a tank full of gas and the top down… and no place in particular to go. We were clicking on all cylinders, as we explored each others dreams and quietly pledged our futures to each other…
Never thinking that the dreams would crumble mid-stream, and our greatest challenge that we would ever face would be to forgive each other, and to forgive ourselves– for being young, so very young and not understanding forever.
It was sweet, and ultimately sad… but that summer was all about the smell of roses and the smell of dust on those damned old dirt roads… and years and years and many rose scented summer evenings have come and gone…and there is still always a moment when I see him, driving, laughing with innocent, youthful joy…and I see his blue eyes turn to look at me, and I know that he really saw forever in me, and I saw the same when I looked at him…
For six years our intertwined lives ebbed and flowed… but in the end, like a song carried on the breeze, he was gone… and for years, bitterness filled where joy had dwelt.
On our son’s wedding day, I danced with a handsome young man. It was the mother of the groom’s dance… and for a bittersweet moment, I saw his father’s blue eyes, as we danced. I watched our son and his new wife dancing and laughing, and only for a brief moment, I recalled two other kids who were so much in love.
None of us were ever given a crystal ball… and looking back, I would not have changed a thing. We created two beautiful human beings…
My list of regrets is short… and he is not on it. I have never regretted a love that I felt for anyone…they all have served me well, have taught me lessons that have followed me through life.
And I have honestly learned to smile at the memory, when I smell roses along a dusty lane, on a hot June evening… and I feel the breeze in my hair, the smile starts to spread across my lips…