I sit with a far away look on my face. My mind has wandered back in time and I don’t even notice the wind blowing outside the window. In the corner of my mind I found a memory, a memory filled with laughter and the smell of popcorn. With the voice of my dad reading one of his books to my sister and I. We sit crossed legged on the floor as he unravels his story. He had a gift of telling stories with sound effects.
My mind wanders further into the dept of my memories, now I see my breath in the cold Ohio air as I hold a hissing gas lantern. I’m bundled up and taking the lantern out to the wood pile that has taken shape along the inside of the barn, along one wall. The barn had the musky smell of horses, hay and newly chopped wood. My dad showed me how to properly stack wood so the stack wouldn’t tip over. I piled wood and asked him a million questions. He always answered the best he knew how.
My mind keeps wandering, now I see a bunch of neighbor kids playing ‘The big bad wolf’ in our yard. The late fall air is crisp, and the stars twinkle overhead. There is a lantern hanging on a nail by our porch, swinging slightly in the breeze that kicked up. “One o clock the wolf is here, two o clock the wolf is here”, the kid that is ‘it’ yells from the tree he is leaning against, covering his eyes as the rest of the kids run and hide. I try to find the best hiding spot, so I don’t have to be the ‘wolf’. Who could tell a carefree child the cares of life that comes with age and time? Wisdom really is something you acquire from life’s trials and errors.
Now in my memory I hear my mom’s urgent voice in the dead of night. Get up! Girls get up!! We need to get out of the house. My confused, sleepy brain was trying to comprehend what was happening. Why was it so bright in the middle of the night and why were mom and dad sobbing so loudly? Tugging on the coat mom handed to me and slipping into my tennis shoes I began to shake uncontrollably. I was looking out the window and flames were shooting out of the barn door. I became aware of sirens, lots of them and firetrucks everywhere. Men running around with hoses spraying water onto our barn, onto the side and roof of our house so it wouldn’t catch fire.
I was only six, but I knew it was doomed. I learned my dad had almost been killed by our horse Rio. He desperately had tried to free him from his stall, but the horse had lost its mind from the heat and smoke. That night is seared into my memory, I can still see the firemen running out of our barn yelling Get back! Our 200-gallon kerosene tank was inside, the fire had gotten so hot the fuel was boiling and my dad had stacked some fertilizer next to the tank. They were afraid it might explode. After the fire was out the charred wood smoldered for a week, I never forgot the smell of charred wood and burned horse. The Fire Marshal found remains of a Molotov cocktail and it was ruled an arson. They never caught the person responsible. Memories are a funny thing, they can take you back and you relive everything in fine detail, in color and even in smell.