I've Been Seven Something

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A familiar picture hanging on the wall in my family's office catches my eye. As I study it, a memory sweet as cotton candy at a concert fills my soul. The glowing sun dawdles brightly above my kingdom. My family's two story home with the grand white pillars and the wrap around porch is my castle. My child sized hand prints are forever stamped in the cement drive way. My castle stands majestically in the middle of a ridiculously over sized yard with rolling, grassy hills and globe willows swinging romantically in the wind. There is a pond, big enough to canoe around in and the over flow of water trickles out, forming a stream that drains into a ditch amongst all sorts of blossoming weeds that I whole- heartedly believe to be wild flowers. On the other side of our home, perfectly manicured grass is greeted by an enormous alfalfa field. Beneath the summer heat, the tall leafy plants sway side to side.

A pesky sprinkler head where the grass meets both the alfalfa and our dirt driveway refuses to work properly. Misguided water drops have banned together and formed a large, grimy mud puddle. Quietly, patiently, it calls to my brother and I from across the yard. Our feet move cautiously at first into the cold water glazed above soft, sandy earth and then sink below the surface as each step is joined by our body weight. Slowly, curiously we run our child fingers through the mud, cup a handful of it and feel the tiny sand grains slip through our grasp. I rub my hands together observing the feel of the dirty paste and spring back in horror as a round, muddy blob collides with my swimsuit clad stomach. Because the soft earth holds my feet firm; my retreating body movement knocks me to the ground, and my bottom meets a soft, damp, dirt pillow. My little brother's laughter trickles and crescendos to a greater volume as the amusement of what he has done sets in. I instantly decide how to handle this situation; my right arm shoots out and skims the mud puddle, sending a splattering spew of pearl sized mud bullets at my attacker. The fight is on.

"Jess. Jake!" My mom's voice temporarily stops the ordeal, we turned to her, snap. The shutter clicked. Two sun kissed faces, tongues out, foreheads smudged with drying mud are suspended in the air. The rest of the kids' bodies are completely covered in dripping earth blending in with the mud all around them. I was seven.

My eyes wander to a second frame hanging on the wall. A decade has passed since the cherished mud fight, but as I look at this picture, the same sweet sensation of remembrance sets in. The steep drop off from the road proves to be difficult to maneuver. The hot California sand lays in and around the cacti and bushes the whole way down, but turns into a spongy pillow when the ground evens out again. The dull gray color of Huntington Beach spreads for miles subject to the flighty waves rolling in and pulling back over and over again. The beach, just beyond the sea's grasp, is littered with broken glass, a straw here and a fast food wrap there. The air is thick and sticky; an unpleasant aroma of fish and dirt swirls around in the soft breeze. But, beyond all that, lays a crystal blue ocean. A shimmering symbol of
forever as it stretches out strong and promising toward the horizon.

Consistant and lyrical, the water beckons to me. I wade obediently into the shallows of the Pacific feeling the rip current tug me forward and pull my feet along the sliding sand. A whirl of color rushes by me pulling a boogie board. My brother's strong form half runs and half swims deeper into the ocean, ducking beneath the waves to keep from being pushed back toward shore. I don't quite have his height, or his strength, or an understanding of the ocean's pattern so as I try to follow him the ocean flips
me under and throws salt water in my face when I try to catch my breath. I am a fish on an underwater tred mill. I flail my arms, kick my feet and stay relativly in the same place.

"Whoo- hoo!" Jake calls out gliding by me, spread out on his body board. "Jump Jess! Now! You'll get on top of the wave!" I crouch down and spring up from the ocean's bottom and for a moment the spilling wave swells beneath me and carries me to shore, it waits for me to smile and then shoves me
under.

Laughing, Jake grabs me and shoves the boogie board into my arms. "Now this is all you do, just
crouch down and when the wave comes you leap like this see.." Snap. The shutter clicked. Two sun kissed faces, blonde hair soaking wet, bobbing in the great blue. The girl is clinging to a board, her back to an oncoming wave. The boy is standing, watching her. His arms are in the air as if to say steady... I
was seventeen.

"Jess, you about done on there? I've got homework to do." Jake's head pops in the room and I smile at him, greatful that I'll always have summer time memories, and all the seasons in between, shared with this kid.





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