Oh to be a kid again...
I wished my days away.
As a knobby-kneed kid living on the eastside of Birmingham, I spent my childhood daydreaming in our modest two-bedroom home that sat in the breezy shadows of tall, gloomy steel mills. My sister, brother and I would play outside on our long, gravel driveway, gliding our bare feet through the sea of rocks and then digging our toes down into the cool earth while staring up to study the clouds.
“Is that a face I see?”
“Or a boat?”
Inside the house, mama would be reading the Bible and daddy listening to Anita Baker croon on the radio while a spaghetti dinner simmered on the stove.
Us kids would stay outside and play until day melted into night. Once the streetlights clicked on, we would run inside, inhale dinner and then wash off the Alabama dust in a bubble bath of Palmolive dishwashing detergent. Then, we'd fall asleep on fresh cotton Mickey Mouse sheets while dreaming about racing our bikes.
I didn’t know how heavenly it all was. It went by so fast. It seems like a dream.
Once I hit 12 years-old, sprouted boobs and got my first Jheri Curl, I suddenly thought I was being oppressed. Orders to clean my room, do my homework and wash a sink of dishes seemed unbearable for this free spirit. I had to sit through hours-long church services on what seemed like every day of the week and was forbidden from listening to “the devil’s music” like that from Michael Jackson and Prince.
So, I wished my days away.
I longed to be an adult so that I could wear bright, red lipstick; sport tight Palmetto’s jeans, stay up all night; listen to the "Thriller" album and do things my way. I repeated the daily mantra: “One day, I am going to leave my parents’ house and do what I want to do.”
Well, I got my wish. My foolish dream came true.
I am now a 45-year-old married, mother of two and recently found myself riding along what seems like an endless road west to Jackson, Mississippi, bracing myself for the second funeral in five months and wishing to be a kid again.
Being an adult is hard. Bills. Responsibilities. Sobering realities. (But don't get me wrong, I am grateful.) And these days, it’s been almost too much to bear: a dear aunt passed away without warning, my brother recently flew halfway across the world to begin a nine-month-long military deployment overseas and a loved one was hit with a serious life-threatening diagnosis.
It has been just mounting...mounting...and mounting.
My 11- and 12-year-old children were crying about all of those things; they didn’t want to go to school or get out of bed. But I had to break their hearts.
“Growing up,” I told them, “means that even though you want to run and hide, you still have to face the day; still have to go to work, still have to meet your obligations, and still have to keep going.”
While the words were coming out of my mouth, I tried to suck in the tears that were forming in my eyes. I knew exactly how they felt, and, just like them, I longed to bury my head in my mother’s chest, to hear my daddy sing my name "Baby Girl," to spend all day staring up at the clouds and to sleep on comforting Mickey Mouse sheets.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to when my siblings and I would feign sleep in our triple bunk beds. Dressed in our superhero underoos, we’d hide underneath the covers and when our parents were out of earshot, tell stories and practice cuss words until the wee hours of the night.
Sometimes I wish for riding my ten-speed bike to the corner store to get a hand full of penny candy, and then sitting on our porch getting high off of banana Now and Laters, apple green Jolly Ranchers, Chick-O-Sticks and Rain-Blo gum.
That was when I had indestructible knees, nonexistent hips and a metabolism like a roaring furnace. I wrote poems about flowers and trees in my cloth journal that was covered with little teddy bears and hearts. My summer days were in Vacation Bible School, memorizing scriptures, eating butter cookies and sporting a red Kool-Aid mustache.
I didn’t know how perfect things were then.
Through the years, my innocence slowly slipped away. And my once vibrant parents and beloved uncles and aunts, move a little slower now and battle aches and ailments. My own body tells a story through a mastectomy scar and chemo-singed eyebrows that never fully returned.
Sometimes I wish to go back to when both of my grandmothers were alive; instead of in the cold ground. I would just sit at their feet and study their eyes, their smiles and their words.
I wish I could go back to when CNN wasn’t buzzing in my ear daily like a swarming gnat; reporting of Trump, wars, rumors of wars and looping a story about a beloved athlete who tragically fell, along with his baby girl, from the sky into a fiery grave.
I wish, instead, for the sleepy hum of the night train passing on the railroad tracks outside my bedroom window or the hypnotic cicadas’ song. Knowing that my parents are in bed in the next room and that my siblings are by my side (young, healthy and free) was such a gift.
I wished my days away. I didn’t know how heavenly it all was. It went by so fast. It seems like it was a dream.