Ahhh, childhood and its memories ...
I remember my childhood as being full of awe and wonder. It was a time of make-believe and pretending and trying on new feelings and experiences. I also loved going on imaginary adventures, and some of the best were close to home.
On the street where I lived during first and second grades, we had a neighbor, an elderly woman, who lived alone in a big Victorian house, just three houses down from ours. I remember it was a wonderful and beautiful old house with gingerbread-style decorations all around the roof and doors, and a huge front porch. In the summer, the woman always put white wicker furniture there with over-stuffed flowered cushions on all of the seats.
She had an enormous backyard. It was entirely contained by an aging white wooden fence with an old brass gate in the center of the side that faced my house. You could barely see the fence, or the whole yard for that matter, hidden as it was by several huge willow trees and flowering vines that climbed up and over the fence.
I remember her yard had enormous white and purple lilac bushes which seemed to reach all the way to the sky. They lined the entire back side of the fence -- and their scent filled my whole being. Along the remaining side, the side with the brass gate, were fragrant rose bushes of every conceivable color which had stretched themselves out over the years and languidly covered anything they could.
In the center of the yard was a fish pond. It was ringed by a rock garden and teeming with the most beautiful gold and calico colored fish I had ever seen. I loved watching them come to the surface and gulp the occasional lazy fly. The pond had at one time been quite lovely, I'm sure, but even that had become overgrown with the passage of time.
At the back left corner of her yard was a giant gnarled apple tree. From it's sturdy trunk, one long straight-as-a-rail branch grew out at a perfect right angle. From that, hung my most secret mystical treasure -- a wooden porch swing with a padded seat and floral throw pillows. This is where the magic was centered, at least for me, and I loved listening to it as it creaked and groaned on every upswing. Here is where I loved to sit and swing and breathe in the mixed aromas, turning my child's imagination loose to wander.
I called the woman's yard, this garden of paradise, The Golden Gate. It was as though the house didn't exist at all, only this magical kingdom of mystery, The Golden Gate. Here, I felt anything was possible. Here, time stood perfectly still ... well, at least until mama called me home for dinner.