Has it been that long ago?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

The smell of just-mowed grass mingled with smoke from the grill as I settled into a chair on the deck. In the garden, the giant sunflowers tipped their heads in the late afternoon heat.

I closed my eyes and felt the warm sun on my face as I drifted to another place and time. These trips back to days long gone are more and more frequent as I grow older. Maybe that is a part of the passing years. The experience is not sad, just kind of haunting.

On this day, the sweet smell of grass and charcoal carry me to summer Saturday afternoons of my childhood. Laughing children from throughout the neighborhood fill our backyard.

Daddy makes the last laps with the lawn mower as we head for the pool that sits beside the sycamore tree. It's not a big pool by adult standards, but the three-foot deep Sears special is huge to us kids.

"Don't splash all the water out," Daddy yells as we start another game of ducking each other.

A couple of hours later, a soggy group emerges from the water to enjoy an ice cold watermelon. Of course when Mother goes back inside an intense seed spitting contest begins. Well it's not so much a contest as a war to see who can hit whom with a well-aimed seed.

Somewhere down the street a bell rings. We all recognize the sound that calls the Page boys home. A black-haired child jumps up from the watermelon and races across the yard.

"I'll be back later," he calls as he hurries before the bell rings again.

By now the sun is sliding into the trees and we rush inside to change from our damp bathing suits.

As we hang wet towels on the line, Daddy lights the grill and pulls up a chair to wait for the coals to reach that "just right" stage. Mother with two cups of coffee and a tray piled high with hamburgers joins him by the fire.

"Be careful," she says as my brothers run by. "Don't get too close to the grill."

Lightning bugs blink in the bushes beside the driveway as I lie in the cool grass and listen to the night come to life.

Soon Daddy will call us to eat. We'll sit around the long picnic table built by my grandfather, tell silly stories and laugh as the stars twinkle overhead.

I hear the back door close and I open my eyes as my husband walks across the deck.

"I'll check the grill in a minute," I say.

He smiles and touches my head as he passes.

I sit for one more minute lost in that other Saturday afternoon.

"Was it really so long ago?" I whisper to the nodding sunflowers.

"It seems like yesterday."