I recently came across a wonderful article in the back of Southern Living written by the Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Rick Bragg. Reading the article was remarkable because it was on the back page of the magazine and my two kids never let me get all the way through a magazine these days! But Mr. Bragg’s article was also special because it struck such a nostalgic cord in me.
Rick writes of a childhood filled with endless summer days that seemed to last forever. Especially days that were spent jumping in puddles, chasing frogs and squishing bare toes through mud. He described those days as a period in his life when “time came in big buckets.”
Oh how I wish I could get my hands on one of those buckets again. Even during the longest days of summer when the sun is still peeking through the trees at 8:00 pm, the days seem to fly by at lightening speed.
I still remember my childhood filled with hot, humid Southern days stretching to fit in most everything I wanted to do. My brother and I rode bikes down country roads, caught fireflies in Mason jars, and played make-believe in the woods using water-logged branches floating in the creek and pretending the pliable pulp was “chicken” for our imaginary chicken salad. (Obviously, my foodie inclinations were formed early.)
Another favorite pastime was running outside at the end of an afternoon shower and shaping balls of wet South Carolina dirt (and probably a little red clay) into mud pies. My muddy little hands produced impressive numbers of these earthy delicacies. More than giving me more dirt under my nails than one bath could cure, these soggy moments formed memories of days spent with just my imagination and, on some summer days, an unexpected surprise or two.
I can still vividly see my mom coming home from her weekly hair salon appointment (looking so pretty with her 1970’s up-do) and bringing around a bright blue wading pool for my brother and me. It was heaven in the back yard. Our surprise even came with a little slide built in. We couldn’t wait to throw the water hose in our new plastic pool and find a way to escape the scorch of the sun. We somehow even managed to float on our backs in just a few inches of water.
These days, my children and I still catch fireflies in Mason jars just like I did so long ago (except we run a rigorously enforced catch-and-release program). And family days are still filled with riding bikes, running in the rain, walking barefoot through the mud and creating their own little make-believe universe. Whether they know it or not, Kate and Jack are now creating their own endless summers to share with their children. Maybe the collection of all their memories will come along with one of those big buckets of time that Rick, you and I long for in the August sunset of yet another fading summer.