Childhood Crossroads


The screened porch door spring
Made its personal sound, its widdergee,
And when I hear that noise today
After all these years, I still smile,
Get quiet and calm and a little restless
For that yesterday at Grandma's farmhouse.

Play there meant a long way
As long as we stayed inside the fences,
And promised to not cross the road.
The culvert ran beneath it,
So we could disobey the edict,
Because that's where the frogs stayed.
And anyway, we couldn't get hit by cars
If we walked under, down the tunnel,
Down the moss covered concrete tube.
Sometimes scooting on our butts
So we wouldn't come chuting down
To the other side or beyond
To fall into the slimey green pond.
We had both done it at least once,
And it got Grandma steamed
Coming home all sticky and green.

We could wander out across the acres of land
Or explore the buildings, the coops
The barns and granaries of this farm
At this lonely plains crossroads
Of two dusty lanes that went to towns,
Places you don't care about,
Places you don't hear about
Unless you are going there.
A solitary place where a farmer
And wife could tend their holdings;
He, the fields, and she, the gardens.
And everyone tends the animals
And milks, and we children gathered the eggs
So Grandma could make our meals
That tasted wonderful, filled us totally
And left you a memory of flavor
That nothing could ever match completely.

When night would fall quietly,
The evening sounds would begin
And force the day noises offstage
To change for the next day's scene,
We would begin to notice the sound of owls
And the guinea fowls, the cicadas
The crickets, the noisy creators
Of a buzzing, four-note harmony
That went on well past sleeping,
When four young ears could not stay awake
Could seem to hear no more today
As the rain came and thickered-pittered
On the tinroof porch were we slept when
It was too warm to sleep inside in summer.
We listened until the cadence
Of drops and plops, unstopping,
Forced our eyes closed and our minds,
Too exhausted, to resist, to sleep.

Up like young farmers, with sunrise chores.
Outdoors in our freedom we sped.
We chased the chickens, the geese chased us
Sounding like taxis, they paid us back twofold
Scaring us like no pigeon in the park ever could.
We would climb trees with no one yelling,
"Get down, you'll hurt yourself or the tree."
Me and a brother, alone together,
When our chores were done
To have fun and gallop like ponies
Sheriffs and badmen, warrior and chief
Reliving the battles from no history class.
Telling old ghost stories invented that day
To scare our fear away when frightened
By a noise or a fleeing snake in the weeds.
"Who needs toys?" we asked each other
When you have a brother and a tractor
And calves and horses in your own yard?

The car springs hunchywunchying
Crunching our way to town monthly,
We could spend our allowance money
On what we wanted; half candy
Half toys, or comics and gum
We had come to the fantasy of the young:
The five and dime store.
It was ours to explore, trusted
We could wander and look and touch
And no one much cared or yelled
Or told us if we break it we buy it
Just quiet wide-eyed joy,
Two boys in Santa's village in June.
Too soon our money was gone
And we had to move on to the car
With our Baby Ruth bars and treasures
To read to each other, play together
In the separation caused by Grandma and Grandpa
Telling each other their version
Of each person they had met
And what they had said and said back
Yackety yack, us playing in the back.

We built our forts that summer
And some were sturdy and others fell
And were rebuilt as cars and ships
And rockets to planets without brussell sprouts,
Or school days or woolen pants
Where strawberry Nehi ran from the faucet.
We practiced our pitching
With pinecones and skipping rocks
And took off our socks and shoes
And waded in our cold-water creek
And forgot that the week had days
Or dates or homework or buses or sirens.
Admiring each others tans, two young indians
Out on the prairie, we dared to try to fly
In that wonderful summer too quickly gone by.