These memories are random but represent things done during any summer day in my youth. They were happy, carefree and adventurous times; moments when the drama surrounding my existence wasn’t weighing me down. So, as the song goes, here are a few of my favorite things.
At my grandparents’ house there was a choke-cherry tree in the back yard. I would spend time climbing the tree during the warmer months. It would burst into a shower of pretty pink flowers during the spring and bear fruit about a month later. And when there was fruit, I would eat about as much as I picked; whatever fruit that didn’t end up in my stomach my grandmother made into jelly.
A short walk down the old dirt road behind the house would take you to a swamp that flooded every spring, but dried up in the fall. It was a wondrous place. There were cat-o-nine-tails growing around the edges and it was always full of frogs, frog eggs and tadpoles. You had to enter the water cautiously because of the sawgrass that grew there. We would hunt for the clusters of eggs left by the frogs and occasional newts that lived there. Tadpoling was always fun as they were not easy to catch. It was also interesting to watch them develop into frogs as the weeks progressed.
A little farther down the road and you were into the woods, which were full of wild flowers and berry bushes, including the state flower, the mountain laurel. I remember encountering a small group of both green and red gooseberries during one of our forays into the wild. It was like finding gold. I stuffed myself with as many of the sweet berries as I could eat, not wanting to share them with anyone else.
Down the paved road was a small bridge that crossed a stream. We would go there to watch the water striders race each other and to catch a glimpse of the beautiful but elusive dragonflies that would buzz about from reed to reed. It was in that body of water that my uncles introduced me to the snapping turtle. Unlike the common box turtle usually found crossing the roads, this beast had an armored shell and a nasty habit of snapping at anything that came near its beaked maw. My uncle took a stick and poked at the snapper’s head until it bit. He then lifted the beastly thing out of the water. It held tightly to the stick while he passed it in front of me, daring me to grab its tail. When I refused, he boldly took hold and before it could turn to bite him, he tossed it back into the swamp that he had fished it out of.
Time was also spent peering into the occasional bird’s nest and chasing down the occasional rabbit. I must admit, there are things about that period that I really miss but time marches on and I look forward to tomorrow’s little joys.