Running barefoot in the morning grass, the freshly-cut blades sticking to your feet. Mom won’t let you back into the house until you’ve sprayed your feet with the water hose but, even after the grass is all gone, the bottoms of them stay green for a full day.
Spending most of your afternoon standing in the cool shade of the old oak tree, unable to take your eyes away from the tiny little green frog that’s been clinging to the bark. (You name him Phil.)
Riding your bike up and down the rocky driveway, back and forth, back and forth, because you’re too young to be allowed to head down the country road alone.
Finally being allowed to ride your bike down that country road and the first thing you do is pedal as fast as you can until you get to the top of the hill, and then you let your legs off the pedals, push them out, and go flying down toward the bottom, your hair blowing behind you.
Exploring in the woods that are just over the hill, creating worlds within the low-hanging branches and areas that the sun doesn’t reach. The fairies live to the left, in the spaces between the persimmon trees. The magical deer that sparkle at night live down by the creek, but you never see them because you have to come in before the sky turns a soft purple.
Meandering down the long drive on a sweltering August day to get the mail because you want to try out your shiny, clear plastic jellies.
Running back up the drive with one foot bare and tears on your cheeks because the left shoe got stuck in the hot tar covering the roads, which bubbled up and sucked in that little plastic jelly like hungry quicksand. Your dad just laughs because it’s the fastest you’ve ever managed to destroy a pair of shoes. (He takes you back to K-Mart that night to get a new pair – pink this time.)
Anticipating the wind in your hair as you careen down that hill again, only to have the neighbor’s dogs come out of nowhere and attack your clothes, pulling you off your bike and onto the asphalt. Your little brother manages to save you, although you don’t know how. Later that night, when you have bruises on your body and are looking at the rips in your clothes, you feel real terror for the first time and worry about what could have been. (It’s the first stop on a long trek of losing your wide-eyed innocence.)
Begging to go to a friend’s sleepover, partly to get away from your dumb brother but mainly because your friend lives in town and she actually has cable.
Picking apples from what Dad calls “The Orchard”, even though it’s really only five apple trees that sit at the edge of the yard.
Discovering that finding a homegrown apple without a wormhole is hardly worth the trouble.
Catching fireflies and giggling when they tickle you as they crawl up your arm, but refusing to put them in jars because fireflies should never be trapped when they could be free.
Staring up at the night sky, the heavens above vast, inky blackness scattered with millions of white dots. Squealing with joy when that first shooting star streaks across the sky.
Staring up at the night sky, paying no attention to the stars because you’re too busy trying to see if there really are UFOs up there.
Ordering pizza and then riding into town with Dad to meet the delivery guy in the Revco parking lot because they don’t deliver out in the sticks.
Sneaking the outside cat in every afternoon after you get off the bus but before Mom and Dad get home and spending an hour with her before putting her outside again.
Trying to come up with a good excuse as to why the house is suddenly overrun with fleas when you’ve promised that the darn outside cat has stayed outside.
Plastering your walls with posters of New York City and silently promising yourself every night that you’re going to get out of here and have an apartment near the World Trade Center (which is after you graduate from Cornell, of course.)
Jumping up and down when you wake up to seven inches of snow and school cancellations because the buses can’t get out to where you live.
Spending summers at the fairgrounds, where you win grand champion year after year showing your Indian Runner ducks and their eggs.
Smugly checking out your grand champion ribbon in arts and crafts because your clay sculpture of Noah’s Ark is the coolest thing you’ve ever done (even if Mom did help a lot, and you’re smug because the Reserve Grand Champion winner is a total jerk.)
Collecting your prize money on the last day of the 4-H fair and then happily spending it on the midway before going back home and starting to plan your entries for next year’s fair. (It will involve turkeys next time, not just ducks.)
Taking clothes off the line before the storm blows in from the West and gets everything wet again.
Going to a family reunion where you see people like you, and then having to use the bathroom in an empty barn stall because no one remembered to call for some port-a-potties.
Entering Dad’s lair (the barn) with timid trepidation because there’s a snake up in the hayloft, which means your days of playing pirate in that loft are over.
Walking barefoot on the gravel driveway and not even noticing that you don’t have on shoes.
Screaming from outside that the Schwann’s man is here, and then begging Mom to buy the ice cream cones with the chocolate plug at the bottom because there is nothing better in the whole wide world than that last, chocolaty bite.
Learning to drive your sister’s stick shift by driving all over the yard. (Dad’s okay with it because he hopes it’ll kill the grass and then he won’t have to mow.)
Getting kicked out of your sister’s car when you’re halfway up the hill across from the house because you’re stripping her gears.
Wishing. On four leaf clovers. On oddly-shaped clouds. On those stars darting across the sky. On the raindrops hitting your windows.
Hoping that someday, you’ll have your own little slice of green, arid heaven on earth, with trees and flowers and flea-bit cats and even your very own snake in the barn.