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Trailing Clouds of Glory

 

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

 The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home”   William Wordsworth

It was the summer of my eighth year, the year that I discovered joy, an independent spirit and a certain self sufficient nature. I was bombarded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings that would never be forgotten, a hodgepodge of images that are as fresh and vibrant today as during that summer, the summer of awakening to myself.

I remember Grandma’s house with that odd odd hallway that seemed so unnecessary, the stairway leading up from the front door with its steps covered by a rubber runner, the smell of cigars mixed with smells from the kitchen, a smell that I have never experienced since. And up those stairs to the floor full of bedrooms with wardrobes and dressers with those big big mirrors and in one room there was a certain door, a door that opened slowly squeaking squeaking and that attic smell would come down, a dark dark musty mothball cedar smell. And up the stairs one would go only quietly quietly stopping with your head level to the floor, the wooden floor, and then up, on up to view a room full of beds under the slanted eaves.There was the buzz of wasps in the air and on each end of the room the wasps beat against the two small windows. On either side of the windows was hung a still somber photo of some unknown ancestor, a person long since gone but whose soul seemed to linger still in the very image on those walls. Their eyes would follow you through the room, always watching watching, always knowing. The beds were covered with the dark wool blankets brought home from military service and there was always always in the room the cigarette smell of furtive secret renegade cousins, cigarettes gotten on the sly, nabbed from packs with coupons on the back, cigarettes stolen from so many many aunts.And up the stairs the cousins would go to steal a moment of smoky adventure.

I remember Grandma’s house and the bright cheery kitchen with the small white enamel top table, the table where some early mornings, by what chance incident I am not sure, Grandma would make me oatmeal and she and I alone would sit at that table. She and I alone would sit and I would put sugar on my oatmeal from the sugar bowl that looked like corn with the husk still attached and she would make me toast with real butter.

I remember the dining room with the long long table where we would eat and where the uncles would play cards and smoke. I would sit and watch and wonder what “trump” meant and talk to the many many aunts with their hidden cigarettes , hidden from their mother.

And down the dark dark stairs to the basement, damp and cold, where the canned goods were kept, the smell got in your mouth and lay in your throat, the smell of wet concrete and dirt and potatoes.

I remember Grandma’s front porch and the cool feel of the metal glider on my bare legs and the squeak squeak squeak it would make as I moved it back and forth by rocking. The smell of the spicy sweetshrub would fill the air and there was the hum of honeybees. Grandma’s heavenly blue morning glories would climb up the porch where mischievous hands would pop the closed flowers and Grandma would fuss.

And in my bed at night I heard the sounds of the crickets, the peep peep peep of the frogs and the che-ump che-ump che-ump of the nearby gas well pumping pumping pumping.

That was the summer that bonds were formed with cousins that never will be broken, a certain secret understanding that still comes when you look them in the eyes, the eyes of children still. There you see remembrances of that certain summer – - that summer of epiphany.

Garland, Terry , Pat , Sandy and I , and sometimes Tim and Doug, and sometimes Laura, and sometimes Jeff, and sometimes Debbie and Jim, and Jill and Mike and Margie who were mostly the “little kids” and were to be avoided if at all possible, but they usually tagged along – these made up the cousin band. This outlaw band of cousins with all the freshness and newness of our young age and boundless energy and imagination would take adventures to new heights that summer. And up the road from Stumptown to Normantown we would go, always stopping to straddle the boundary line and always going up the steep steep concrete steps to the cemetery along the road to sit on the grave stones and sing — -” when first you see the hearse go by then you will be the next to die, they wrap you up in a big white sheet —the worms crawl in the worms crawl out the ants play pinochle on your snout “. And then on to Aunt Toots’ house across the long long swinging bridge where Pat would jump up and down and try to scare everyone and Terry in his role as protector of ladies fair would reprimand him. We would sneak into Aunt Toots’ kitchen and make a towering stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread and off we would go – - to slide down the slippery sloping rocks in the creek, to wade in the muddy waters of Steer Creek – - or just to play and talk and ponder the meaning of our identities while gazing up into the sky and laying in fields of grass and clover. And in the twilight hours there were games of hide-and-seek and bloody murder and there were nights spent in the treehouse where the moon and stars shone down through the roof and we would whisper whisper secrets and dreams and feelings and Pat would eat marshmallows.

That summer stretches on for months in my memory but passed as quickly as our youth. And when that summer was drawing to a close and on my last day I knew a certain heart break and heart longing that I would know and return to several times in my life. That summer of my eighth year, I understood what all the poets write of in remembrance – - the passing away of the wonderment , the glory days of that magical summer that would never return, never be revisited , only recalled in memory and dream.

 

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