It was not a conscious act on my part; I did not set out to reclaim these memories of my childhood. It was a gift.
It was a typically typical trip to the park. They were off—running, laughing, pretending, fighting, making up—and then off and running again. I was on the bench, reading, occasionally glancing up to watch their antics or when they wanted my attention. “Mummy, look at me! Did you see that? Are you watching? Look what I can do.”
But on this particular day, I lay down my book, walked over to the swings and wedged myself into the soft u-shaped seat. Swings have decreased in size since I was a child. Kicking my legs up and out, I rode through the air, butterflies flitting about in my stomach as I flew forward and up. I leaned back, arms straight, head tilted up towards the sun and closed my eyes. The butterflies grew in number and as I flew up towards the sky, it happened.
At first it was only the rushing sound of wind in my ears, but as I relaxed and freed myself from my thoughts—“What should I make for dinner tonight? I still need to pack. Oh crap, was that deadline today?”—and listened to the sounds around me, I stepped back in time and heard the sounds of my childhood. Cars droning in the background, water running, children laughing with the occasional excited yell thrown in, murmured conversations, the rubber soles of shoes hitting the cement as a group of kids played tag and in the distant background, a baby crying. If I listened closely enough, I could almost hear the heat rising from the hot asphalt of the parking lot. For a few seconds, I was a child again. I was pulled from my travel back in time by the sound of my own children’s voices.
“Did you bring a snack, Mummy?”
Just like that, I was an adult again - an adult with her ass wedged into a very small swing.
In retrospect, jumping from the swing while it was still in motion was a bad idea. The memories were fresh and new; my body is not.
Like most families, mornings at our house are chaotic. My older son is more like me, wanting a few minutes to relax on the couch before clomping down the stairs ready to face the day. He could lounge around the house in a robe all day if I let him. I have birthed Hugh Heffner, I think.
My youngest wakes up and hits the floor running. I shuffle throughout the chaos zombie-like, eyes not fully open, brain not quite functioning as I wait for my coffee to brew. They both know not to ask questions until my mug is empty. They know, but they ask anyway.
The weekends, though—the weekends are different. More relaxed. More time. My older son was relaxing upstairs, my younger son had already eaten and was playing on the front sidewalk. I sat in our living room with the window open, a fresh breeze blowing in, coffee in one hand a book in the other. At some point I closed my eyes and lay my head on the back of the chair. It started with the sound of crickets chirping and the traffic off in the distance. But the sound that threw me back to my childhood was the slap slap slap of my son's bare feet hitting the cement as he ran down the sidewalk.
Suddenly I was a barefoot eight-year-old-girl running across the street to my best friend’s house. Her family had installed a pool, and that summer we spent every waking moment swimming until our eyes were glowing red and our hair had turned green from chlorine. I was sure we would be best friends forever.
I sat in the chair listening and savouring the memories that were flooding my head until I heard a small voice whisper through the window, "Mummy? Mummy? Are you awake?” I turned to him and smiled. “Will you come play with me?” he asked.
And with my memories still swirling around in my head, I did. Happily, like a child.