Remembering Wonderland

March 9, 2011
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I can remember back when my universe was a few city blocks wide. Back when life was simple, and the hardest thing to do was to keep yourself entertained. Back when the summers seemed long and warm, and you wandered around barefoot with no care for sunblock, save for when you dared venture into water.

I remember my old wonderland, if you could call it that, where I spent most of my time during the warmer months. It was no larger than the quarter acre of land that my home rested on, but it was my enchanted world. It was a world I shared with my sister, I must admit, but it was mine just the same; where magic and tiny miracles were everywhere, but only if you were sensitive enough to find them.

My world was carpeted by lush green, that yielded forth sweet clover blossoms and refreshing cool in the heat of the day. There were patches, however, where the carpet dared not go, for it was inhabited by bark dust. It wasn't very well liked, at least not by bare-footed adventurers, but it was protected by the ruler of this land, and was to be left alone. Therefore, some kind of foot wear was needed, but on the grass and pressed paths of stone we ran free.

Yet, up from the bark dust we detested, beautiful things came to be. Bursts of yellow, purple and white crocuses would emerge from their cold slumber to taunt the late winter, and announce that spring was coming to end it. I was thrilled to see their colors. They clustered around the bare cherry blossom tree, as if huddling together in the cold, but when the spring rains came, they departed, and waited again for late winter to reappear. There was little time to mourn, however, for soon the daffodils sprang forth, and the hyacinths joined them, filling the air with their sweet, intoxicating smell. The cherry blossoms bloomed in clumps on the tree, their beauty coaxing the shy tulips into the air, and splashing my world with deep reds, yellows, pinks and dreamy purples.

Then - then - it would snow pale pink.

Light petals would fall, shaken by a warm breeze, and alight softly on me as I laid in the shade of that tree. It was there - that everything was at peace. The cool grass underneath and around me tickled lovingly, as if the petals coming down to join it filled it with joy. Oh, how I loved that tree.

Green leaves soon replaced the sweet pink blossoms and I was free to ascend the thick branches of my beloved tree, and I came down covered in small splotches of reddish-brown pollen-like dust, which crept out of teeny crescents that dotted the branches like thin freckles. I would laugh as I climbed higher, and held the branches in a death grip when I was dared to jump the four feet to the ground, fearing the bushes underneath me more than the ground itself. Two scrubby heather were hardly the thing that one wanted to fall on, and even the huge, lime green cushion of a bush scented like mint had sharp branches under its fluffy exterior.

But nothing smelled better than the roses next door. Our neighbor was a kind man, tall, with graying brown hair and a funny mustache to match. His yard was full of roses, big roses, in more colors than I could imagine. There were white, yellow, pink, red, orange, purple, and even funny marble mixes of two colors, but no matter how similar they looked they always had a different name. My sister and I would stand on our tiptoes to smell the wonders, and search each one that hung over the fence for the ‘rare green ladybugs’ we dubbed ‘lolas.’ We finally figured out many years later that they were actually harmful spotted cucumber beetles, and it then made sense why our neighbor didn’t mind us searching his roses for them. And when the petals would fall from the flowers into our yard, we claimed them for ourselves, mashing them up in an a large can with water to try and make our own wonderful brand of ‘perfume’; always wondering why it smelled so awful the day after when it had smelled just fine when we made it.

On the hottest days, however, we retreated to our chlorinated ‘ocean,’ bound by white spongy ‘cliffs.’ In this magic water I could turn into a mermaid, or a shipwrecked traveler that had to survive in dangerous seas. I could swim at the bottom of the ocean, collecting pearls and seashells, or lay in the sun on my little raft, hoping to be rescued, all the while escaping the tortures of summer heat.

Despite that heat, I still spent my time inside the stuffy little house that we had built as a family. Its two stories loomed high above us, and we’d race over the sharper grass to the edge of the little white porch; giggling as we entered the light blue abode. We’d peer out of the bay windows and sit on our miniature furniture, play ‘house’, and write on the special whiteboard wall that our dad had put in just for us. The linoleum floor was cool on our feet, and we preferred it over the loft where the air was stifling and the dead bugs liked to collect around the lookout window.

Even when there was a humid summer rain we’d run to and keep dry inside our special little house, yet we still felt like we were outside, thanks to the crudely-painted flowers on the wall and the tree where the baby raccoons hid in their unfinished hollow. The sky there was constantly blessed with a bright rainbow, and always blue like the still aquarium under our ‘you-won’t-get-in-trouble-if-you-write-on-it’ wall. Though the things I remember the most are the hand prints next to the door, all in an ascending line of many colors and sizes, and the stains of blackberry juice that had been spilt by little hands.

Those were the same little hands that were experts at plucking the ebony jewels from among the thorns which lined the back of my wonderland; when the air was laden with the thick, intoxicating smell of sun-ripened blackberries baking in the August heat. Those dark treasures were what truly made the summer sweet, even though they signaled the end of the dog days we enjoyed so much...

Those days when we got cold from a little swim and huddled on the deck stairs sipping cocoa gratefully from a little silver spoon, those days when staying inside while the sun was out meant that something was terribly wrong with you, those days when freckles popped up quicker than daisies and lasted until winter had finally returned-

Those days when my wonderland was mine.

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