Yesterday I made my weekly visit to my parents’ house. I always bring the twins with me and we visit. I love the time with my parents. I want the twins to know their grandparents, not to count on someone else’s memory of them. They love to go to Grammy and Grampy’s house. They get excited when I mention it even before we leave our house.
It’s just over 20 minutes to get to my parents’ house from my home. The house I grew up in. We moved there when I was just five years old. My two youngest siblings were born after we moved there. It’ll always be our homestead. I love going back there to see the place, the yard, mostly my parents.
Inevitably every time, and I mean every time, I am there, memories flood my mind. Every inch of the property prompts a memory of something it seems. So yesterday, the twins were playing with their four-year old cousin in the yard. It was a beautiful November day, 68 degrees or so, with a mix of sun and high clouds. Little to no breeze, and it was just right for being outside. We had fun in the fresh air.
The twins wandered through the side and back yards. Kicking leaves and picking up leaves as they roamed. They found an open barrel, half filled with rain water, and decided it would be fun to fill it with leaves, while stirring the “disgusting stew” (quote from my 4 yr old niece) with sticks they found in the yard. It was pretty funny to see the three of them crowding this container, and stirring like mad.
It reminded me of the times I was on that same patch of grass, playing in the leaves, or imagining I was on my ranch riding my horse through the leaves. I remembered a red, long sleeve shirt I wore all the time as a kid, and how it had a single front pocket. I remembered one time that a hornet got stuck in my pocket while I was playing in the leaves, and I was stung a few times. I remembered standing in that very spot, wearing my mom or dad’s deer skin gloves, and pretending I was over looking my vast ranch. I wanted to be a cowboy or even an indian. And my mind raced back to days that seem like the yesterday I spent with the twins …
… The grass was still green, but the leaves had fallen off the trees. The wind was cold now, but it would be weeks before the velocity really kicked up from the north and west. Even so, the cold breeze curled gently around me as a reminder of the cold that comes each winter. The air temperature was mild enough so that the breeze was enjoyable as long as I kept moving. I was in the saddle, riding slowly over the grassy, relatively open slopes on the edge of the seemingly endless forest. My horse was a brown and white mustang that had once roamed the Great Plains, wild and free. The mustang was good enough for the Comanche Indians, the natives who rode best, so the mustang was good enough for me.
Just then I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk leaves its perch from a single stalk remaining on a dead pine tree. As the hawk climbed to its soaring altitude high above me, my eyes returned to the forest in front me. As I lost my focus on the grand shadows of green and gray that stood in front of me like some sort of wall, I noticed in the breeze, single snowflakes blowing from left to right on the shoulders of the increasing breeze. I pulled my cowboy hat down a little tighter, I flipped the collar of my wool coat up as to cover more of my neck, I wrestled the deerskin gloves a little further up my wrists, and tried not to rock in the saddle as the breeze immediately let me know how cold it was where I wasn’t resting my weight. I turned towards the northwest and took in a breath of the cold, fresh air. It filled my lungs in an instant and cooled me to the core in half that time. As a smile pursed my lips, I thought, it’s great to be alive, what a beautiful place, and I let the wind whip a few more flakes at my face, while I closed my eyes; one with it all…
… then I returned to the present. Watching my kids on the same grass where I used to tie my imaginary horse. The same spot where the adventure so often began. One day I was an indian riding bareback, a tremendous rider, a marksman with my bow, a silent and stealth hunter of sustenance. The next day I was a cowboy with thousands of acres or maybe on the unexplored frontier, walking from my barn with my horse before riding into the unknown. Then another day I was just a kid playing in the leaves. Feeling the textures of leaf, stem, and grass. Hearing the rustle up close. Then I could be a football player playing before tens of thousands of adoring fans, as I jumped into the pile of leaves like Walter Payton over a goal line defense.
I watched the kids play. I listened to their sounds. I noticed their intensity. I reflected their joy. And I felt their pain when I told them it was time to come in for lunch. As I walked in with my daughter, whom I had to pull away from the barrel, I remembered the feeling. I held her close and whispered to her while I carried her in the house while I, for the moment, I shut out my memories of the back yard.