When I was younger, (I won’t say how much) my dad would let me drive his truck on the back roads to our house. We lived out in the woods in Ohio. Later on, we moved to town and I magically became a “city girl” fit with a spiffy subdivision name that people recognized when I explained directions to our house. l only mention this because it seems funny as I lay here thinking about it. My memories aren’t as clear about the house in the woods, probably because I was younger. But then, I will unexpectedly have a memory so unbelievably vivid that I don’t know if it was a memory or a dream. Life is torturous that way.
I remember playing outside with my sister, our goldens rubbing their scratchy fur against my arm as I sat on the hill. The smell of cedar and sap waffs up from the nearby forest edge. I can hear the peakcocks at the farm up the hill as they sing their alarming song over and over. “The Woods” was always such an enchanting place for me as a child. It was much cooler than sitting out in the open where the sun’s gleam pricked at my skin like a thousand little thorns. It was quiet there too. I always knew that I wasn’t alone once I stepped inside. Sometimes that frightened me and sometimes it was a comfort.
For no particular reason, one day, I went into the woods with whatever band of dogs I had willing to follow. I remember it was cooler out, probably early fall. It was cool enough for a jacket, but not cold enough yet for a coat. In Ohio, these are distinct ways to explain the weather. (I apologize if you are southern, only because a high school football game on an autumn Friday night truly is magical.) Trampsing along, I am stopping every so often to pick up acorns. I have always liked how their tops have felt. They are rough and smooth at the same time. I was collecting my share of them inside my jacket pocket, when I found that one pocket was already inhabited by something else. I retrieved my hand to find a tube of orange flavored Chapstick I had been looking for about a week earlier. I entergetically applied it to my lips, popped the lid back on and continued my search for all things cool. Just thinking of that Chapstick makes me smile. Laying here in my room, more than 20 years later, I can still conjure up the smell. Yes, it was orange flavored. So, yes, it indeed smelled orange-like. But, it also had that scent that all Chapstick made for little girls had. It had that musty undertone that I have just never been able to peg a name upon. Although I can’t name it, I know the correlation. That Chapstick smelled like bright, young, glourious innocence. It smelled like a girl with no cares in the world, walking with her dogs in the woods. It smelled like happiness before Santa was just a spirit, before robbers broke into that home and shattered everything I had ever thought about people all being good, and before I ever understood what divorced parents really were. That orange Chapstick that probably cost my dad 10 cents at the I.G.A. symbolized everything a young child’s life is about until that sad day when they start internalizing and analyzing every single thing that is said to them or about them.
Mom yelled for me, just as I realized that my jacket pocket had a small hole in the bottom corner. I searched frantically on the brown and golden leave-covered ground for several minutes before finally giving into the concerned tone my mother’s voice had taken on. With one quick glance over my shoulder, I thought about coming back to look for it later. I imagined it might have fallen into a rabbit hole or was just covered by leaves. The truth is, I have had dreams about finding that Chapstick. It’s out there in the woods some where, covered by years of leaves and growth. It’s deteriorated and discolored, but I promise, it’s still there.
(Image from Google search.)