Driving home from work last night, my mind was meandering from trail to trail and I somehow landed on those words that Darth Vader (almost) spoke. But suddenly it wasn’t James Earl Jones’ voice in my head anymore; it was my own.
My sister and I spent a lot of weekends at my grandparents’ house when we were kids. It didn’t have air conditioning, and in the summertime there was always a big box fan blowing in the middle of the living room floor. Becca and I would take turns talking into the fan, and that was the favorite phrase of choice. “LUKE, I am your FATHER!”
“Get away from that fan, you’re blocking the air!”
Emperor Nannie needs no Jedi mind tricks to make her will be done.
What I remember most about those times is a lot of little things like that. Running around in the yard with the chickens and the kids across the street. Sitting in front of the wood stove, wrapped in a big towel after a bath in winter. The fact that my Nannie never locked her doors, and that’s why I walked home in the middle of the night from my friend’s house when I couldn’t sleep. I always knew I could get in.
We used to pull down her attic steps and play around the hole they left in the ceiling. I don’t remember what we played, but I remember sitting around the edge with boxes of this and that stacked all around us. And I remember looking up at dangling feet when it was my turn to climb that rickety old ladder.
We would go to “the candy store” before church on Sunday. It was really just the corner market, but Nannie gave us fifty cents apiece to buy candy with, so it was a candy store to us. We each could get two candy bars with that kind of money back then, and we took our time choosing.
Nannie and Grandpop watched Hee Haw, so we had to watch it too. But it wasn’t so bad. Other than that, we pretty much had our way with the television. We always watched the Disney movie, and I particularly remember seeing Escape to Witch Mountain at their house. But the big deal was The Love Boat and Fantasy Island on Saturday nights. Da plane! Da plane!
I saw JR get shot on their tv, too, something I’d have never been allowed to watch at home. But don’t blame Nannie; she was asleep by then. I was a tv and movie girl from the start, I guess, and I’d stay up all night long watching and watching and watching. Bring on the next story! Channel control was a mighty powerful thing to a kid like me, back before there was a tv in every room, cable or even the fourth network.
I lay on the couch in the dark, sometimes wide awake and sometimes half asleep but not willing to give up. Nannie would wake up in the middle of the night and ask, “What are you still doing up?!”
“I’m going to bed in a minute.”
But it always took longer than that.
There were always granddaddy long legs in Nannie’s house. They’d climb up and down the walls, and beside the couch their tiny pill bodies and giant spindly legs were cast in relief by the blue and white light of the television. It’s an image that will probably stay with me the rest of my life, creepy and fascinating all at the same time.
I liked the fireflies better.
There was a big old tree in the front yard and a well not far from it. An old-fashioned black iron pump and handle stuck out from the concrete well lid, and I always thought that was cool as crazy. It didn’t work, but that was okay. Nannie and Grandpop would sit in a couple of old lawn chairs next to the well, under the wide canopy of that old tree, and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be.
The sun would start to go down and the breeze would start to pick up. The grass would begin to cool beneath our bare feet. And lightning bugs – so many lightning bugs. The chase was on, and when you caught one, you’d cup both hands gently around it and peek inside to see the light.
Sometimes I miss being a kid.
I miss newness and the adventure that comes with unreserved imagination.
I watch my nieces play dress up and tea party, and I envy their ability to get lost in that make-believe world. I suspect the imaginary worlds I create for myself now are not nearly as awesome as theirs.
Would I go back? Heck no.
But I wouldn’t mind a visit from time to time.
To be honest, though, some things never do lose their magic. Like staying up all night watching television when I know I really should be asleep in bed.
And I’m certainly not above talking into a fan, even at my age.
If no one is looking.