Memories

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There are so many memories tied in to the meadow behind the old Brookfield house. One of the oldest things I remember doing with my sister there became a yearly tradition, until we moved away. Every winter there would be a few warm days, when the top layer of snow would grow soft and sticky. The next night it would freeze up again, and become a glitttering hard ice crust over the field. Behind our house, the yard sloped down to a small gulley that swam with water in the spring, and then up and out from there spread the meadow in rills and valleys. At the far edge, ages away from the house, or so it seemed to me, there was a line of young pine trees, and then a tall chain link fence. Behind that fence soared the interstate, unknown country, and freedom. The sun set behind that fence. In the evening, when the ice crust was hard and firm enough to walk on, my sister would take me by the hand and lead me to the edge of the meadow. I remember how perfect and clear and magical it looked, unsullied by any footprint. The sun, setting far away beyond the interstate, reflected its light off the frozen surface, creating a single line, perfectly straight, of burning fire across the meadow. A path of light over the ice. We would step carefully onto it, afraid our small feet might sink through and mar the splendidness. I remember walking, out over the meadow, following that path. The path to the Palace of the Sun. The light glinted orange and gold in that single line, and chrystal and pear on either side. It dazzled my eyes so I slipped, my foot slid off the trail and sank through the ice, captured and held back as my sister walked ahead of me, not even turning to glance back, setting one sure foot before the other. I had marred the perfection, broken the chrystal ice spell, and she walked on, unwaveringly strong. Someday, I wanted to be like her. Someday, it would be me in front, silouetted by orange flame, haloed by the setting rays of the sun, never faltering...while she struggled to follow. I would not look back, because she would not look back at me now. Then suddenly those thoughts flew away as she turned, reached down, and pulled me free, setting my baby feet back on the path. She admonished me gently, told me not to step off again. I must not break the magic. Then we would walk on, hurrying faster as the path slowly began to grow imperceptibly dimmer. The sun was sinking. Finally, we reached the pine trees, made into fairy castles of ice. On the other side, the fence rose. We would climb half up it, mittoned fingers grasping the cold metal, small boots scraping for a foothold. Stopped. So near the end, but unable to continue. There, on the other side of that fence, was the Land of the Sun, my sister said. If we climbed over and crossed the interstate, we would see his Palace. It stood there, just out of sight behind the rock cliff beside the speeding cars. That fence, and the interstate, were the last barriers between us...and the Land of the Sun. I fell back, arms exhausted by clinging to the fence. It was so tall...miles above my head. I was too small to climb it. But someday, I said, looking throough the links, face pressed to the cruel, inhibiting metal, someday when I was big. Someday I would come back, follow the glittering firepath, clamber over the fence, run across the last no-mans-land of the interstate, and set foot, at last, in the Land of the Sun. Someday. We would smile into the briliant light of the setting sun one last time, then turn back, reluctant, through the belt of trees. When we reached the other side, the path was gone. The pine trees were no longer glittering castles. The Sun was set. We trudged back, slow, tired, our feet breaking through the ice at every step. Back across the meadow to the house. Later, from inside the warm safety of the familiar walls, I would gaze out the window and remember my promise to visit the Sun. Maybe next year I would be big enough. I would climb the fence someday.

...I never did.





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