Just before dawn, in the still darkness, the solitude is exhilarating. Not so hot today. A breeze rushes ever so gently, caressing the tall pines. Morning and a restless night have left me wide awake as I watch the sky change from pink to gold. Old memories come crowding through, as they have a habit of doing with the passing of our days.
Now, when I stop to think about it, the time seems so long ago, it has really become a little blurred by the years. I can’t remember now if it was a day as soft as the clouds on a rainy July morning, or a day as golden as the autumn sun. Maybe it was winter. It’s difficult to say. We were after all, just kids. And we were in middle of a special time, and there would be no other moments quite like those ever again.
Suddenly that fall, it was as if the world was right there in your hands. The woods were busy turning to orange and yellow wildfire. Lightning and thunder swept majestically off to the east, and a great breath of cool air, had struggled in, and we knew that the blistering hand of heat had finally released us. And with it went the sneaking, murdering polio that threatened on every side. And for a while our parents gave a sigh of relief; we were done with the shadows of that crippling summer evil.
So, it was that kind of instant joy-of-living, in that time and place. That tiny slice of living that would not, could not, come again; although we never would have believed it in those moments of reckless security. We rode on golden hobby- horses that spun us round and round, life was an endless carnival, ours for the taking.
We slow danced, noises buried in Halo scented hair: We slow danced in high school gymnasiums, drugstores, or on our front porches and held on for dear life.
We held our breath in our boned-waist-clinchers, bared our shivering white shoulders and with cheeks pressed we were lost in that moment of youth; the radio encouraged us with, (yes it did); “These Foolish Things” or “Moon Glow” Nat King Cole whispered that we were “Unforgettable.” And indeed we thought we were; glowing in our puppy loves, priceless in the bobbling, swaying yards of crinoline we wore.
We shagged, loose as rag dolls, popping and skittering at the end of one another’s arms. We felt like “Broadway Babies.” And we sighed deeply at the mellow tones of Bobby Darrin.
Our parents were still reeling from the nightmares of the WWII, pictures of Nazi concentration camps; and death, still haunted their dreams. So a large part of our legacy was that dark power of force and hate, so strong it had tried to wipe out the world.
But, we were shamelessly young. We “Why Danced,” (remember)? Bunny Hopped and shagged. We inhaled “Stardust.” We shimmered like fireflies in our baggy bobby socks and our sweet youth, and for that elusive moment in time, we came into our own.
Of course, by then the war was well over and the world jerked, shifted, and had finally started flowing again.
Today when I drag out my old albums, I see those lovely, hopeful faces peering expectantly back at me through yellowed photographs: they were so young, and smiling so innocently .
How exhilarated we looked. Almost as if we had just wakened from a long sleep. The cruelty of the death camps had touched us only in the movies. Nevertheless, it had left its scars, ridged and deep. And I remember how we whispered among ourselves, and perhaps, somehow, we danced for all those who would never dance again.
I suppose for all the pictures in the album, all the smiling, carefree faces; this had to have been a shining year that still casts its glow over years that followed. We were wrapped in a snug, harbor, adoring parents, few responsibilities. A fond and foolish time.
I only know where one or two of those old familiar faces are now. And we make sure our paths cross often as we zig-zag through this fast paced life. For we have shared the scars and laughter of the years, so we cling fast to these golden friendships. Despite distances or circumstances we will never forget out autumns of yesterday.
After all we still sing the same old sweet songs.
Micki Cottle was a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent who occassionally regales readers with her wit and charm. She is also a member of the Sampson County Historical Society.