When I was a little girl, my family drove from Michigan to Lebanon, Pa., (where my mom is from originally) and on to Bethany Beach for summer vacations. I have visions of these long drives: I loved entering the tunnels that were cut into the hills on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I mouthed the words to Debbie Gibson’s “Foolish Beat” on my yellow walkman as I looked out the window smeared with rain. On one drive, I was transported to Jean Valjean’s Parisian underworld when I read Les Miserables.
When we arrived at my granddad’s house in Lebanon, which to me felt like a mansion, I loved going to the sunroom streaming with light and putting conch shells that he collected in a bowl up to my ear. “That’s the sound of the ocean,” my granddad told me. His house had a grandfather clock that ticked and tocked at the base of a grand wood staircase. But it was the back stairwell that led to the kitchen at the back of the house that excited me — a maid’s staircase that conjured up stories of royalty — and a perfect gateway to a prime hiding place during hide n’ seek.
In those warm summer evenings, my brother and I would chase and catch fireflies in the backyard and put them in jars that had lids with holes poked through. We’d carefully place stick in the jars, so the fireflies felt like “home” and as we fell asleep on the cots in the basement (where I also watched “Silver Spoons” and had a crush on Ricky Schroder), we’d watch the fireflies light up until they slowly died out. (Sorry fireflies.)
Lately, I’ve been trying to conjure up my childhood memories — and how wide-eyed and innocent I was. What impacted me the most? When I think back, what comes to mind first?
I recall long summer evenings playing hide n’ go seek with the neighborhood kids, riding my bicycle to Perry drugstore to buy Teen Beat and BOP so I could paste photos of my movie star crush Kirk Cameron on my bedroom wall (swoooon!), dressing as ET for Halloween and sorting through the heavy bags of candy for my favorites (Twix, Reese’s peanut butter cups, M&Ms), losing my first tooth and putting it under the pillow for the tooth fairy, waking up Christmas morning with a pounding heart, swinging on the vine of a weeping willow with my fourth grade boyfriend, Brian, who kissed me on the cheek.
I want to remember, if I can, what it felt like to be young so I can help little C. foster that sense of wonder, imagination and joy only children can have. Oh, the freedom of childhood!