I grew up in a ranch style home in Bowie, Maryland. The yard was large, and contained a big hill in the back. In the winter, our family and neighbors would go sledding in our yard, until before long, the entire neighborhood was partaking in the fun. The toboggan was filled with adults and children as we would take the run down the hill and spill out into the street. Over and over we would ride the hill in the snow. Red plastic sleds packed with kids would spin down the slope, shoot between our house and the neighbor’s, and end up in the front yard.
In the summers, the hill was green, as my father kept a very well-manicured lawn. For hours upon hours on those long summer days, we would spend time outside playing games like SPUD, kickball, tee-ball, and run races. That hill was sort of magical to me as it brought so many of us together, all in the name of fun. When I think of my childhood, I picture being outdoors, playing outside until the late hours when my mother would call me inside to bathe after catching fireflies in glass jars and then setting them free after they put on their light show.
If you were standing at the sliding glass door in our kitchen looking out onto the yard, in the top left hand corner of the hill was a white rock that was embedded into the earth. When my father would cut the lawn low, the rock was clearly visible. It sparkled in places, and I remember my friends and I wondering if it was worth any money. One day, we grabbed shovels and tried like hell to pry that rock out of the ground, but it was too large. It couldn’t be moved. It was uniquely shaped, rather flat, but with some curve to it as well as some indents where you could see it glisten with hues of pinks and purples.
I called it the magic rock on the hill.
A few weeks ago, I took a ride to my former home as I waited for my daughter at a dance practice that was near my old stomping grounds. I took the turn onto the main drag and rode the familiar street that I had grown up on. I remembered every turn, every street, and before long, I was riding the streets up to the elementary school where I spent my formative years. I rode past my old friends’ homes and I reflected on the many memories of my friends and the innocence of my childhood.
I thought about the rock and its magic.
It made me wonder if the people who lived in the home now take care of the backyard the way my father did; if voices filled with laughter echoed on snowy days as they rode the slope to the street; and if the grass and earth remembered the feet of children of yore, as they ran and shouted with joy.
I’m quite fortunate to have experienced a wonderful childhood; those memories and experiences have shaped me into who I am today. When we moved in my teenage years to Annapolis, it was bittersweet for me. It took me some time to fit in and make friends because I had so many friends in Bowie that I was sad to leave behind. I recently opened up my yearbook from junior high and could remember everyone clearly, as if I just left yesterday.
That’s childhood magic, rock or not.