I’m having a writerly moment. Do y’all know what I mean? The voices start whispering and you’re compelled to the laptop, or the notebook computer, or your phone, or yesterday’s grocery receipt and a Comfort Suites pen from 1997. And my writerly moment, which I wish would be about world peace or National Child Abuse Prevention Month or even the lack of quality programming on television, is about… lawnmower beer.
I took a long nap today. Without going into the backstory, Dane and I have been up between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. the last few days, and I’m again buried under the PTSD of mommyhood and all the other shit I never have time to do, and I’m tired. Anyway, Dane took a two-hour nap (unheard of! pigs flying! at some point, this child has to sleep!), and so did I, and I woke to the buzz-and-roar of a lawnmower.
The lawnmower: that’s another sound of my childhood. Dane and I will share that, I suspect, because we live in a similar neighborhood as I did as a child, and because he’s obsessed with lawn equipment. I remember laying on my bed and hearing the advance-and-retreat of the engine as my father rounded our house. The smell of gasoline, dangerous and pungent, and somehow also decadent – the same type of smell I would later associate with the first puff of a cigarette – permeated our garage. My father had an old cord-start mower, and the pull of that cord was the sound of Saturday, of summer, of long naps and mosquitoes buzzing and sleeping late and salt and sweat in the air.
Our childhoods have hearts and souls. I hear the lawnmower and I smell my father after a long day in the sun and remember how when he didn’t shave, he’d hold me down and rub his whiskers on my face. My mom would come inside with brown hands and brown shoulders and a floppy sun hat and the smell of earth and growing things on her hands. The air conditioner would cut the heat at the door and coming in and out was like walking through a wall of steam into a cool, clear cloud. And I would lay on the floor with Aunt Brookie and watch the fan blades turn above us and the water in our pool glisten through the sliding glass doors, and believe those days would never, ever end.
When the sun went down, my sister and I would run around barefoot in the grass while the cicadas sang and the tree frogs screamed and my parents sat on the deck – built by my father, always built by my father – and drank sweating beers. There were always people around when I was a kid, like a scene from Gatsby’s: my parents’ friends, neighbors, my friends or Aunt Brookie’s, our extended family, whoever. And the grass would be freshly cut and smelling like sweet, crisp summer and the voices would rise and fall as the heat undulated across our backyard until darkness took the edge off that summer-swamp madness and God blew a little relief down on us with the rising of the moon and the appearance of the stars.
Now instead of me laying on the floor, it’s Dane, and instead of my parents’ friends, I am the parent (who approved that, I wonder? don’t these people know I’m highly underqualified?), and instead of Bud Light or a Corona with lime, it’s Jon’s home brew or Shiner or my neighbor’s bloody mary. But the changes are minor. It may be Raleigh instead of Houston, or April instead of June, but I know that down in Texas, mom and dad are out on the deck with a cold beer, watching the fireflies light up the hill country night and remembering those days from our childhood, just like I’m living and reliving them here. So I guess those days never really do end. And thank God for that.