walk to school
The memory of an experience reveals itself in waves. Sometimes the waves roll in from unexpected directions. My slicker was crayon sun yellow, plastic coated canvas, the color of a circus tent on the inside. It smelled like dried paint. My name was written inside in blue ink. It was a little fuzzy, as if the ink had gotten wet. It was written in uneven block letters running vertically along the open edge of the hood.

The sound of rain falling on the hood was like being on the inside of a dull bell.

I had a narrow view of the flat. I resented the cord that pulled the hood tight under my chin and had loosened the knot. The slicker was stiff and wouldn't turn with my head, so I had to twist around to look to either side. I turned to the right and saw the ditch beside the lane on the flat, a ditch that was too wide to step over and too full of tumbled vegetation to see rain water in the bottom. Was it coming to life after winter? Were there green buds on the honeysuckle? Would we soon draw out the pale white strings from the honeysuckle flowers to taste the nectar hidden in their deep cups?

A field humped up beyond the ditch, rising high above the flat. It was a field I had never entered because it was in sight of the house where we were told there would be a farmer with a shotgun full of rocksalt waiting for our trespasses. The field was greyish brown hay stubble, left standing under winter snow. The scant remains of an old wire fence dared us to cross in.

Another wave washes in and I see my dad, scything honeysuckle in the summer along the fence row, my sister and I sent up from the kitchen with a sandwich, an apple, and a thermos of ice tea. Liverwurst with cheese, and yellow mustard. Dad laid down his scythe and stepped into the shade on the near side of the lane to take his lunch. It was grassy there, with skinny young trees, and we imagined that there had been a house here that burned down. Tulips came up in the spring, yellow tulips, and an old rose bush spread beside some flagstones deeply sunk into misplaced turf.

When I bring back these experiences I remember having remembered them many times before. Each time I do I see and hear and smell what I did then, and do so from a vantage point the size and shape that I was. I wish it was possible to share them with you completely, but I can only describe what they were like. Maybe you've had something like them yourself. Surely they include the emotions I felt at the time. Memories of experience unreasonably bring back traces of joy, or wonder, or fright, or well-being.

walk to school

Sometime later I saw this illustration on a magazine cover and it triggered the memory of my walk in the rain that day. My experience didn't look quite like this, but it didn't not be like this.

center hill