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An American Memory
Miranda ran into the woods using the scarce moonlight to avoid the trees and fallen branches. The sound of her feet crunching against the orange leaves filled the nightly silence along with her panting breaths. The cold of the night scratched against her skin with each step, but she only pushed her legs to run faster. When she reached the box of wood that was nailed up in a tree, she climbed the rope ladder, feeling the cool rungs under her fingers. She stepped into the tree house that survived solely on memories. Those memories flooded into her brain like a tidal wave; there was no way to stop them from rushing in and breaking all her barriers.
The penetrating moonlight casted a glow throughout the room creating a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. She looked to the left and saw the square hole in the wood that was supposed to be a window. Miranda closed her eyes and saw the black behind her eyelids become distorted with light.
She was seven, standing in this very tree house with Jonathan. It was sunny and hot. Jonathan was hanging a small American flag out the window and Miranda watched from behind.
“Miranda,” he had said to her. “This is the American flag. It represents our rights as people. Nothing can hurt us here. It’s almost like magic, protecting us like it does. And one day, I’ll fight to keep this flag waving.”
Jonathan stepped back and stood next to his little sister. They both held their hands over their hearts and began to pledge their allegiance to the red and white stripes that rippled in the summer breeze.
Miranda opened her eyes and she was back in the tree house, alone, tears threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. But she pushed them back. Jonathan wouldn’t want her to cry over something as silly as a memory.
She looked ahead at the red bed comforter that hung from the wooden ceiling. She closed her eyes.
She was nine, watching Jonathan reach on his tiptoes to hang the bedspread.
“This way,” he said as he struggled, “if anyone comes up here, we can hide behind this and no one will see us. Fun, isn’t it?” Then he smiled at her from over his shoulder.
Miranda snapped her eyes open refusing to remember that smile. She was back in the dark tree house, alone, watching the comforter sway gently back in forth like a feather floating in the air.
The tears hit harder against her eyes and pushed against her chest.
“Don’t cry because you think you should,” Jonathan’s voice echoed through her head, thick and raspy just like she remembered before he left. “Only cry when there is absolutely nothing else you can do.”
Miranda balled her fists up at her side and took a few deep breaths to dry the tears again. If Jonathan could fight for his country, Miranda could stand in a tree house.
She took the few steps to the curtain, her converse making a hollow sound on the wood as she walked. Pulling the curtain back, she stepped into their secret hiding place. She pulled out the flashlight that weighed down her string bag and shined the light into the far right corner. And there they were, right where she remembered. She reached her hand out and felt along the carvings that we drawn by little Miranda and young Jonathan. Pictures of nature, pointless lines, and smiley faces cluttered the wall. She smiled as she remembered the feeling of rebellion when she held the pocket knife in her hands at such a young age. She continued to look at the roughly carved drawings until she reached her signature at the bottom close to the floor that read “MIRANDA WAZ HERE”. And there, next to hers, was Jonathan’s scratchy name with a smiley face drawn beside it. She felt her hand across his name, feeling the shallow indentions under the pad of her forefinger.
“There’s absolutely nothing I can do, Jonathan. You promised you would come back.” Her body erupted into a state of pain and agony she had never felt before. She would have rather felt the raging devastation of an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, a tsunami, a tornado, or a mixture of them all. Anything would be better than what she was feeling. She sank to the floor, her legs pulled up to her chest. She didn’t let her head fall; she held it high as the tears ran down her face. If there was one thing Jonathan had taught her, it was to keep her head held high, no matter what.
She began to feel the strength that Jonathan had possessed and she shifted her body, still sitting on the floor, toward the window and closed her eyes. Picturing the American flag waving in the warm summer breeze, she held her hand over her heart and whispered:
“I pledge allegiance
To the Flag
Of the United States of America.
And to the Republic
For which it stands.
With liberty and justice