Times were simpler decades ago- as I ponder why, a dusty photo album appears inside my mind. After pulling the cobwebs, it opens- the film covered pages turning fast.
That old album smell and that crinkling sound takes me back- a time without smart phones- and the best times of my childhood. My soul becomes flooded with overwhelming bliss.
Summers were full of laughter and play. I ran through tall weeds, arms outstretched, eyes closed. I caught bullfrogs near the pond. I roamed with cows in the field. I grimaced with the sharp bite of gravel beneath my bare feet.
When the sun went down we watched from a screened in patio- the sound of crickets lulled everyone to sleep. I remained awake. I focused on dreaming- until I resorted to counting sheep.
When the sun came up I rose to muffled chatter- the strong scent of coffee. My eyes grew wide. Pancakes with syrup and a perfect square of butter that did not melt.
"What do you want to do today?" Uncle Ron asked, the most cheerful man you'd ever meet- a proud man who lived life to the fullest. He loved to plan adventures.
"I've always wanted a pie in my face," I replied through a mouth full of pancakes.
"I see," he replied, gazing at Aunt Dixie.
She was as country as one could be- a charming southern belle anyone would befriend- with natural beauty and a sweet accent that made birds sing.
Aunt Dixie made me feel warm.
Uncle Ron made me feel free.
"A pie in the face?" He repeated, as he rubbed the top of his bald head.
I giggled and shrugged.
I reminisced on being home. My brother and I watching kid shows where the lucky ones swam in slime or had pies smashed in their unsuspecting faces.
Idyllic film noir separates the past and the present. Country living aged a person backwards just as much forward.
The gang of neighborhood kids from the city would have laughed. "What are you- on Double Dare?"
My brother and I watched religiously. We created backyard obstacle courses and spent hours role playing- switching between host and contestant.
At home we did this for a living. It was a right of passage for nineties kids. Yoyos. Pogs. Hackey sacks. All obsolete now.
Drinking from the garden hose is practically unheard of. I can attest that it causes no harm.
This era of living is just a pinch of greatness those born in the eighties experienced; before the start of super technology.
We received the gift of life before the world became a wifi signal.
We still rode in the back of pick up trucks. We walked around the mall. We received information from encyclopedias. We had to memorize phone numbers. We took pictures with plastic little boxes that we crossed our fingers would turn out.
In the country we chased the sun, caught fireflies at night. We gathered rollie pollie bugs and weaved in and out of the trees with our flashlights. We did not watch TV. We were living like all kids should- but something was still missing.
"Hear that Dix? This girl wants a pie in her face." Aunt Dixie smiled, her eyes sparkling over her cup of coffee.
The summers remained long until it neared time to go home. Back to reality. Back to where I either didn't exist or was the butt of many school yard jokes.
Thoughts of leaving brought on a sadness that could never be explained. I moped my way through the formal dining room- where sat a grand piano I desired to play.
I danced my fingertips across a long dinner table. My brother and I often hid underneath it- concealed by an overlong cloth.
I stood in the window facing the front yard. A forrest of trees hid us from the rest of the world. This house was like a secret. A time capsule of memories like no others. A time when I was young and free of worries. A place where time stood still.
I watched a couple deer walk in the distance- a common occurrence, along with turkeys. The wildlife felt just as welcome as anyone.
I slipped outside and walked the gravel path to the end of the drive, kicking up dust with each step. I knew the summer days were coming to an end. I tried desperately to hold on to whatever I could.
Down the road I saw a turtle and gently picked it up and set it in the grass. I walked down into the creek and followed it until I grew bored. I knew I'd have to strip down later to check for ticks.
A dilapidated structure further down the road called Big Foot's Cabin stood before me. It was barely holding up, yet lively events and weenie roasts.. bon fires and light shows still took place. I could smell the toasted marshmallows.
The door creaked open as I entered. This was my first time inside alone. I shook off my fear and realized it was exactly as it was left.
Dust covered furniture standing on its last leg. An antique wood stove with ashes still intact. The musty smell was uninviting but I sat anyway.
There was no one else here in this very moment. I thought of the cabin's inhabitants years ago.
My aunt and uncle teased me- saying the namesake was because Big Foot owned it and he would gobble up anyone he saw come near.
I personally liked to envision Laura Ingalls and her family living here. In the quiet outskirts of southeast Kansas. A trail of history I could say I relived.
I made my walk back and slipped inside the house. I realized it was quiet- I peered into the kitchen- where my vision became disturbed- white everywhere.
The culprit- Uncle Ron, was holding a plate of smashed whipped cream and he plopped what was remaining on my head.
After my initial shock. I joined in with the laughter and chased my brother with whipped cream covered hands.
I took a bath that night and sat with my sticky hair for an hour- even as the water ran cold; little did I realize that would be the last summer before I went to junior high.
A heard a knock on the door which woke me from my trance.
"Did you save any pie for us, Jenny?"
I smiled as I turned the water to hot and went under the bubbles.
I closed the album and reminisced. I am no longer in the country. I am no longer an adolescent. I am looking at my phone. The time is 8:48AM and the temperature is 42 degrees.
Uncle Ron has been gone for thirteen years now and Aunt Dixie has been gone for ten. I would go back at any given second- to reexperience the simple life before the breakdown.
Before politics divided us left and right, before social media and uber rides.
Before everything was offensive, and having an unpopular opinion made you oppressive.
Before our kids became better at technology than us. Before works of fiction became college courses.
I can still hear Uncle Ron laugh as I fling whipped cream off my face. Aunt Dixie hurries to collect towels to wipe away the mess.
Back then..all I wanted was a pie in the face.