A childhood dream
by Whitley Clifton | September 4, 2019 3:23 pm
Sometimes, when the moon and stars align in perfect formation, I dream I’m a child once again. When I’m in that carefree dream state, I can feel the warmth from the old fireplace and hear soft raindrops on the rusty, tin rooftop.
I realize mama and daddy are in the next bedroom because I hear the rise and fall of their breath. My younger siblings are further down the hall resting comfortably. There is a sense of peace in our house, which seemed to extend to everything locally, and then world-wide. The dream is so real and wonderful that I realize that I must be six-years-old again.
I’m in Ms. Myrene Johnson’s first-grade class again. We slowly read about the antics of Alice and Jerry, and their small dog, Jip. Their adventures are interesting but not as exciting as my sister’s and mine are.
In the summer months, we roam the countryside looking for adventure. There are sweet, purple grapes growing wild in the backfield of Mr. Jones’ cotton fields, and the creek is drying up in the branch behind our house. It has not rained for a month and the water level is low. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to catch a mess of redfin pike by hand from the low waters, and we’ll have mama fix us fried fish, hushpuppies, with all the trimmings, along with daddy’s sweet iced tea for supper.
My sister and I know our natural habitat well. There is not a single huckleberry bush, plum tree, or blackberry patch that we are not familiar with for miles around. As a country child, you are always hungry and you are never within walking distance of a 7-11. So, we make the most of what nature provides us with each passing season, and God watched overhead for us from stepping on rattlesnakes, sand spurs, along with thorns, thistles, and rusty nails.
We go through the long, hot Georgia summer barefoot as a yard dog. We slice sweet, red watermelon and juice runs down our bellies while we spit out the dark, black seeds.
I turn over in the bed and resume my childhood dream. I feel a cold sensation on my rump. Then, I realize I’m sitting atop Daddy’s old ice cream churn with a burlap bag covering the crushed ice. He turns the handle slowly, while my younger sisters wait for their turn.
We spend the summer going swimming or fishing at the Maple Hole, where our daddy and his family went when he was a boy. I go deeper and deeper into the dream and smell fried chicken and fatback cooked with summer vegetables on the stove. Mama is singing “Rock of Ages,” her favorite hymn. The house is overflowing with love.
Then, I hear her unmistakable voice clearly: “Get up, we’ll be late for church!” Then, I stretch, I awake, and realize sadly, that it was only a dream and I’ll never be six years old again.