Rebecca N. Suhrawardi
Manhattan and Westhampton
I remember the scents of wild hyacinth in the spring. Their blue and purple sweetness a surprise to my childhood senses. And the three swings, one for each sister, which hung from the lowest branch of a stoic, old, weeping willow tree. A tree whose curtain-like branches formed a cave around our young legs, pumping away, taking the swings higher and higher, until we thought we may swing right over the willow’s arm from which we hung.
I remember the gentle way the land sloped towards the little creek, full of minnows and frogs. Is it truly possible my childhood included chasing after these jumping, amphibious creatures? That skunk cabbage was not just a term I knew, but a plant I could identify? That swinging like Tarzan on a rope to cross the widest, most hidden, portion of the creek was my life? How is it that I never fell in? Never got wet, even?
I still know how to kazoo by placing a wide blade of grass pulled tightly between my thumbs and using it like a reed, blowing through the gap in my fingers, eliciting a squeaking, quacking sound, which to this day still amuses me, and astounds little ones. I wonder how many of those little ones will carry this trick with them into their own adulthoods, and pass it along to yet even more little ones.
I remember the countless hours spent lost in fields far beyond the edges of our properties, where the grasses were taller than our young bodies and the low-hanging, afternoon sun would cause the field to glow as if from the inside. I escaped into tall seas of wheat with my sisters, feeling safe and secluded within pockets of grassy kingdoms, as we laid on the earthen floor, entangled with each other in a pile, dreaming and pretending, for hours at a time.
It seems to have happened so fast that our little, red, tricycles became two-wheelers, and our two-wheelers became cars, until finally, the whispers of tall grasses and caves of willow trees seemed more like a fairy tale than something we had actually lived, and hiding places within serene fields became identifiable only in the recesses of the past.
These same cars (which replaced the two-wheelers, that replaced the tricycles), for each weekend in the summers of now, transform into time machines, transporting us not only to a physical place, but also to a place in our memories, a place where geese quack and grasses swoosh. As the time machines stealthily snake us out of a crowded metropolis, they recede us back into our childhoods, childhoods that are still alive on the East End.
Life whizzes past our windows as we barrel into future, only so that we may go back into the past, until the pavement before us goes from aggressive, black and expansive, to winding, single-lanes of slow motion, where bicycles and cars share roads, competing for speed and space.
And it isn’t until the familiar crackling of the gravel drive under our tires alerts us that we have succeeded at our time-traveling adventure, and that we have arrived to the slower life we once lived, our adult lives left on the black expressway behind us, hiding away in the mirror of our rear views as only an outline.
I walk immediately into the back garden, forgoing entering the house or unloading the time machine, and instead, take strides across the lawn, removing my shoes along the way in one smooth motion, carelessly leaving them in a tousled pile someplace in the grass behind me. As my feet sweep across the sharp, warm ground, the blades of grass alive between my toes, I walk up and onto to the dock snuggled between the towering cattails and emerge to the isolation of the water.
And as I sit there, feet dangling over the ledge, engulfed by vegetation, I close my eyes, and go further back, to recall the hyacinth and their magical perfumed scents, stirring within me the elated feelings of surprise at their appearance each spring, wild in the garden, their fragrance haunting my senses and resurrecting the distant memories of a youth gone past, but yet still very much alive.