series –

The Kid

40 years old since the beginning.

We sit high up in an elderberry bush, its trunk so thick it rivals many of the surrounding trees. Its clustered flowers make it look like we’re floating on a fluffy, creamy cloud. It’s peaceful up here. 

Away from the ground is safer, somehow.

For a long time, we just gaze up at the sky and imagine what it’s like up. What it would feel like to fly. 

Going somewhere far away. That must be nice.

Then you take my hand, and we’re off to our hideout between the bay trees and rhododendrons. The soil is always moist here but that doesn’t matter for real explorers of nature like us. We crouch down and watch some nearby birds intently, making sure they never spot us. 

Staying hidden is safer. Keeping secrets is how you survive.

We play a game where we’re in a secret magic society that obviously has to save the world, but we agree that’s like a “long-term goal.” We mostly need to do very secretive cool things and baffle anyone with our cleverness and sorcery. It involves complicated spells and rituals around an old tree trunk. 
We also need to dress up as princesses; of course, there’s nothing better than flowy gowns and flower crowns. 

This world should be full of magic. Why isn’t it?

I braid your hair and decorate it with daisies. You give me a necklace made of long willow twigs. We huddle in the tent and draw intricate pictures of beautiful, adventurous ladies, one drawing scribbled over another, all in ballpoint pen. It’s a jumble of lines when we’re done — another secret only we can unravel. Stories that no one will ever know about.

You can only entrust yourself with the truth. And the darkness.

We play hide and seek; we run and laugh; we bike; we pet the animals at the nearby farm. We bask in the sun, but never long; there’s always something else to do, something else to see, somewhere else to be. Like in the ditch near the road! There’s so many wildflowers there, we pick a bouquet to take home.

If only we could go and discover the world without fear. There’s so much to see and learn.

Some afternoons should go on forever, and in my mind they do. But even the power of imagination can’t stop the real world from turning, so I’m forced to go back to my wanderings eventually. 

I hear someone call for dinner, so it’s best you go now. You say you don’t want to, but your growling tummy betrays you. You demand I stay longer; we could play more? I sadly shake my head and give you a long hug. I do need to tell you something before I go. 

Not about the future. I know you have a million questions, but my answers won’t do you any good. You seem to understand. We’ve always had a good sense of what should remain unknowable. Mystery is important for a good story, after all.

So instead, I say that you should heed the warnings of the Ghosts, just as the Dreamer is the closest thing to an oracle you will ever meet, fortune tellers be damned. And the Artist is your friend; never forget! There’s going to be others too, but don’t worry about that; I’ll take care of them. Just like I will take care of you.

I guess that’s what I came here to say today. In this idyllic memory turned fantasy. 
You no longer need to protect yourself from the world by hiding away. Everything you are, everything I was, and still am, I can hold that for us both now. 
It’s weird to become an adult. Really weird, but also comforting. 

In a year, I’m going to be the same age our mother was when she had us. I have no idea how this happened, yet inside, it feels like I was supposed to be this age all along. Like I finally belong, like we finally belong. We’ve been 40 years old since the beginning.

You laugh as if I just told the world’s greatest joke. We hug again, you peck a kiss on my cheek, then you turn and run towards the old caravan. You stop to wave at me at least three times before you finally disappear from view. That stuff really runs in the family.

I blink away some tears and step out into the oncoming dusk. Someone else is calling me home.

Image – Little girl from Verses For Grannies, Suggested By The Children… illustrated by Dorothea A. H Drew (1899) Free public domain CC0 image.
Font – Bungee font family. Used under SIL Open Font License


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