A Little While

A Little While Our playground was a country farm-fenced street in Remsenburg, NY. Former potato fields had sprouted a handful of houses flanking the old Remsen farmhouse. My home, a brick red saltbox, overlooked it all. The sparseness of kids on the lane left the landscape mostly to my friend Amy and me. We waded in golden fields of knee-high hay and ran down the sloped land to a shaded creek that wound its way to Moriches Bay. In the summer we built tree limb bridges across the creek banks as thick swampy mud squeezed between our bare toes. The reeds that grew thick towards the bay served as the walls of our forts where we concocted assorted mud pie recipes. Halfway down the street lurked an old graveyard filled with the remnants of sunken head stones we were sure harbored dark spirits. To pass it by, we ritually held hands and ran, as fast as we could until we reached the shelter of a bend in the road. Past the bend, thick scented honeysuckle and swaying tiger lilies lined the narrow lane ending in a grassy path to the Bay. When the tide was low we climbed down the private stairway to collect the wave worn shells that collected in bunches along the wet sand. The smooth sun-sparkling bay-water had a way of soothing our little souls. During the summer we were seven, the beginnings of a new home took shape next door to Amy’s house. Large diggers ripped up the quiet field and turned it into a land of yellow-red sand. Huge mountains of dirt rose from the once flat terrain. Deep valleys lay below the piles, soon to be filled with cement. We often climbed to the tops and slid down to what felt like the center of the earth, hot in the midday sun. A baby brother had newly arrived at my house, and for a while the broken land was our secret escape. Teri was a friend of Amy’s older sister, Sue. Once Teri and Sue discovered our find, it became something different. Teri was raised on one of the last working farms in town. She was tall, sinewy and baked brown from the sun. Her hands were usually placed firmly on her hips, unless she was running, and she could run fast. We looked forward to the coming school year when Teri and Sue would move up to middle school and no longer be our school bus ride terrorists. Teri’s bus stop was first and she would head straight to the back of the bus. She would defy any rider to step foot beyond the first 4 rows of the bus unless they were in at least the 5th grade and cool. Amy and I never ventured past the second row. One afternoon, they followed us to our dirt mountains, creeping slowly up behind us and dousing us with sand. Grainy kernels slipped from our hair and seeped into our eyes and mouths. With burning eyes, we ran to the far mountain, relieved they had not followed. Quietly, we scaled up the dirt and peeked over the top. First pebbles, then rocks came hurling towards us. Amy and I tried to return fire but our throws fell short and sank to the valley between the piles. Each attempt met with stinging pelts of hard stone. With our hearts pounding, we slid down the back of the dirt hill and ran, as fast as we could through the undisturbed field beside our once peaceful desert. We did not stop despite meeting sharp brambles along our path. The usual heavy scent of honeysuckle was barely perceptible as we flew through the bushes. We ran past the seemingly haunted graveyard and the empty ivy covered mansion at the end of our lane, stopping only when we reached the bay. We leapt, suddenly fearless, off the bulkhead to the sand below. The cool, clear water washed away the yellow-red dirt and the blood from our scratches. We wondered how we had out run them, or had they let us go? In the water the horseshoe crabs with their hard brown shells of armor and their long sharp tails sent the green crabs scampering away, but we were safe, at least for a little while.