Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Three Childhood Memories

Late at night, before I nod off, I'll remember something vividly, some random and completely irrelevant memory of some odd moment in my life. I don't know what triggers them, or how they happen, but they're interesting. To me at least...

When I was little, maybe four or five, when my parents would take my sister and me shopping, I'd get to ride in the cart. I was far too big to fit in the child's seat by the handlebar. Safeway had the deep baskets, and I could ride in the deep part with my baby sister if I didn't torment her. For some reason, I didn't get to ride in the deep-basket-carts very often or for very long... My favorite store to go shopping in was Roth's. Roth's had shallow-basket-carts. The carts had a large area underneath with a rack in the front like most carts, and the back third was a raised section with another smaller basket under the top basket. The shallow top baskets meant less bending for the shopper, too. The best part about the rack underneath was that I could sit upright under the basket, hiding under all the food in the cart, eating the cookie that the nice bakery ladies would give me. Then, when I got tired of shopping, I could just curl up and sleep as Mom pushed me around the store. Many times I went home with those cart rack lines impressed into my backside. Sometimes, when I go shopping, I wish I could still ride underneath the carts.

I remember the giant maple tree in front of my first house. The tree covered both our lawn and our neighbor's lawn, and it dropped tons of leaves, literally tons and tons. The lowest branch was seven or eight feet off the ground, just high enough that I could never get up, just high enough that I wouldn't have been comfortable. The tree had aphids something awful, and the old lady next door would let the ladybugs go every once in a while. I'm not fond of bugs, but Dad taught me that ladybugs are good bugs. When the leaves on the giant maple turned colors and fell, Dad had to work overtime to keep the leaves off the front lawn. He'd go out after work and rake until the sun went down. Sometimes he'd give me the spare rake and I'd give a hand a raking. I don't think I did much good helping as much as I had fun jumping in Dad's huge piles and tossing leaves in the air. He'd bury me in the leaves, and I'd fly out of them, leaves scattering back across the grass. We'd go in hours later, our noses dripping from the cold, leaves still stuck in my hair, and we'd get warm by the big grey stove where I melted my boots by setting them too close to the fire.

Both of my parents grew up on farms, and my grandparents both had gardens when I was growing up. Dad's parents had a huge farm, mostly growing food crops. They had apple trees and a pear tree, and I remember rows of sweet, sun-warmed raspberries finding their way into my mouth, coating both my fingers and my tongue in sugary goodness. More than once, I walked back into the farmhouse with berry stains. Mom's parents had cherry trees, and we'd get to eat as many cherries as we could right off the trees. Yellow and red swirls on the outside, a pit to spit from the inside, what could be better? Grandpa grew rows and rows of corn that we weren't supposed to play in. We did. We tromped all over the garden through the mounds of zucchini and cucumbers, over the carrots and green beans, and behind the pumpkins and squash. Grandpa had a big garden to feed a big family.

They're little memories, small flashes of a life now gone. I don't fit underneath shopping carts anymore, and I think I'd look pretty silly riding in one. We moved away from the house with the giant maple tree. Dad's parents tore out the raspberries, and I don't know if the apple trees are still there. Mom's parents moved away from their huge garden and cherry trees. I don't have any idea why I'm remembering these things now, but I remember.

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