Remembering Lost Childhood
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
I passed these woods everyday. At first, it was nothing more than a sea of green. Then, memory stepped in. This was where they took me. This was where everything had changed. I wanted to stay a child forever, but my parents would not have it. And that childhood was torn in half, lying broken between the streets of Moore Avenue and the evergreen forests that beg for me to return, where I dare not go.
My younger brothers and I were close at one time. I would set up an imaginary landscape and characters, and they would dive in with toys in hand. We hid under the crib, pretending that it was a rocket ship. We raced up and down the stairs. We were children living a thousand dreams, but my parents waited for me to grow up. And when that was not happening, they stepped in.
I saw the cabin now. It was tucked behind forest but still in plain sight. Its roof was caved in a bit, but the door was open. Do I remember? I wish I didn’t, but my memories are the companions in the backseat. And my mind wandered up that long, dirt road, chasing ghosts.
My father decided to send me away that summer. It was a sleep away camp for city kids, and being a city teacher, he had all the information that he needed. He thought it would be good for me. He thought it was time for me to grow up, but it was just another notch in a tense relationship. We really didn’t grow close until I left home many years later, but now I was riding in my parents’ car with my arms crossed over my chest. They were sending me away. He was sending me away, and my childhood was gone.
Luckily, I only carried bits and pieces of that summer. I remembered the Archie comics that I gave to the girls in my cabin, the same girls that dropped my hairbrush in dog shit and stole my sneakers. I was the tyrant that summer not them, lashing out at being left behind. I cursed, I complained, and I was a pain in their ass. So, they weren’t completely to blame, and I wanted to go home. But I was denied.
I remembered at the end of the summer hiding in the bushes with Storm. He was a small boy with brown hair and eyes, and the girls pushed us together, daring us to kiss. He liked me, and I liked him. Nothing ever came of it, but I still have the crumpled, blue piece of paper, our marriage certificate that we got one hot day at a fair. I guess I’m sentimental like that, but there were days that I just wanted to forget. But it’s kind of hard when you pass these woods every single day.
I only wanted to be a kid. I loved being with my brothers, but when I arrived home, they were no longer waiting. My brother, Brandon refused to look at me, furious that I left him behind. My brother, Matthew drifted into his own world, his own thoughts. I wasn’t close to my baby brother, but none of us really were. Instead of a loving home, it was now a tense atmosphere, and doors slammed shut. Yeah, I wasn’t a kid anymore. Are you happy now, dad?
In some ways, this was a cruel joke. I lived in the adult world now, clinging to my dreams, dreams that set me free once upon a time. I worked nine to five, hoping not to be laid off, and I spent my free time in the car, counting thoughts. My memories would tug at me from the backseat and point out the window. Do you remember? Yeah, bits and pieces, but those were memories that could easily fade. And there are memories that I wish to forget but never will.
If I allowed myself, I could see her at the side of the road. She was going into the fifth grade in a town that would never accept her. For right now, she was here on a hot, summer day. She wanted to go home. She wanted to remain a kid. She wanted to dream, but life was cruel. Her father did not understand her, and she did not understand him. There was no hate there between them, but there was conflict. And she sat with her knees bent, holding up a sign reading, “Take me home,” but I just drove on by.
The forest was beautiful on the mornings with mist. Fog drifted through the trees, stealing their green. Memories were stones buried under gray. The cabin was filled with ghosts, and hollow footsteps marched up that long, dirt road. And cars like mine just drifted by, slipping silently through the arms of time. My childhood was lost, left behind, but there are days like today, where I just remember.