Memories from childhood are wonderful ways to prompt your writing. Simply close your eyes, find a moment in time when you were in high school or college, and describe the scene. From there, let the scene unfold to show your action within the backdrop of your memory.
I found this exercise a lovely diversion, a blissful reminder of what I once had and what I have now.
Lazy summer days reading on the grass. The sun shone brightly in a vivid blue sky. The air was still and fragrant, slightly dense with the heat of the afternoon. I lie on an old bedspread with dark blue flowers and their green leaves on a white background. I pulled it out of the back of Mom’s car, where she still keeps it during the summer months.
I’d start out seated, maybe cross-legged, with my sunglasses, t-shirt, and shorts on. As my mind sunk into the story and my body slumped further and further into relaxation, I’d stretch out my legs, holding the book aloft in my left hand as I rubbed out my sore muscles with my right hand, hopeful that the pins and needles in my feet would subside before they transported me all the way back to the real world.
The lyrical sentences and fanciful stories would lull me into a magic land. I was no longer a teenager, awkward in life. I was now an adventurer chasing down treasure, or a lonely shopkeeper about to be surprised by love. The lives of the characters became mine, as my real life was suspended. Eventually, never taking my eyes off the page, I’d gently roll to one side and lie flat on my stomach cobra style, not once breaking stride in my reading.
All the while, in the parallel universe of the ‘real world’, the sun beat down upon me, warming me from the outside in. Eventually, my eyes would begin to droop, imperceptibly at first. With each blink, my eyelids would stay closed a split second longer. My reading pace would slow, and I’d find myself rereading a sentence here, a paragraph there.
The sun’s magic eventually overtook the magic of the story, and my grip on the book slowly loosened. Sweat would drip down my temples, streaking through the sunblock I had applied hours before.
Finally, after nearly dropping my book, I would relent. Marking my place and closing the pages, I’d lumber to my feet, pulling up the warm bedspread. I’d stumble up the porch steps, punch drunk with the heat, and open the door, stepping into a new sort of magic realm – a realm of cool air and comfy couches.
I’d let my book fall to the floor and wrap my goose-pimpled body in the sun-warmed blanket, then stretch out on the couch and allow myself to fall into the mysteries and wonders of my dreams.
As I remember, I feel a longing for those moments of freedom – to read uninterrupted for long hours of the day. To lay undisturbed on the couch, cozy beneath my blanket, sleeping soundly and deeply.
Today I can’t read for more than 20 minutes without a child asking ‘an important’ question, or an alarm sounding to remind me to change the laundry or start dinner.
I still read in the sunshine. I still curl up on the couch with a blanket to nap. But the sun rarely has a chance to infuse me with its delicious form of tryptophan, and my blankets are more likely to be kissed by spit up than by the sun and fresh air.
My dreams are no longer the whimsical fancies of childhood. Instead they’re laced with the anxieties of losing children, being cornered by inevitably difficult decisions, or spending all my money at the grocery store and having to ask the clerk to put half of my cart load back.
I feel nostalgia and a bit of sadness, realizing I can never go back. But would I really trade what I have now for those lazy summer days? Were those moments really free in the way that they seemed?
Didn’t I worry then just as much as I do now? About how I looked in my shorts. About whether I would pass that test, be laughed at behind my back, have a date for prom, or write my report in time.
I never have to worry about those things now. I know who I am. I’m married to a man who loves me like no one has loved me before. I have three beautiful, charming, delightful children who give me more joy than I can contain. I have deep, rich friendships with women who remind me of who I am when I’m at my worst and celebrate me when I’m at my best.
Would I really trade all of that for an uninterrupted afternoon in the sun with a book and a blanket?
Written by: Angela Magnotti Andrews