I was lucky enough to have a daddy that built a tall metal swing set beside our house for his three children…I guess no manufactured smaller ones would do. He, being a radio astronomer at Cornell University, worked on radio telescopes delivered in huge cartons made of plywood, and I can still see one being transported onto the abandoned railroad tracks in our backyard. We called the carton our Clubhouse, where we had friends come for sleepovers, and I practiced kissing with girlfriends. Preparing for kissing boyfriends.
Behind the Clubhouse is a field where a small pond grows cattails, tadpoles, and is bordered by blackberry bushes that produced thumb-size blackcaps as we called them. I loved eating them fresh as I gathered some for my mother to bake one of her fabulous flaky pastry pies. There were wild strawberries in the fields too, sweeter than the strawberries we grew in our garden; daddy allowing a small patch for me to plant. Daddy played badminton with me after supper too, and sometimes set up his telescope for us to look at the stars in that backyard of my youth.
We played hide and seek, tried to catch fireflies, one landing on my fourth ring finger so I could pretend I was engaged. Someday. Of course I climbed trees being the “tomboy” I was.
Today, I am still that “tomgirl” as I look out the window into my backyard as I type this essay. Remembering as clear as the blue sky, daddy carving out the blades of a small water wheel which the trickling stream out of that pond caused to circle as my sister and I looked on with wonder. And, I’m still surprised that I’m crying now, after years of his passing on, after years of crying about losing him and my childhood wonder due greatly to my mother’s religious fears of hell.
I was born and raised in Ithaca, NY. As a young adult, I left for ten years and returned in 1974, appreciating my home town at least ten times more. It’s now fall 2015 when I notice someone has painted “question everything” on a Ithaca Commons building, in the backyard of my office.
I have a backlog of tears that water my soul like the rain watering the flowering mums outside my window. Yards and yards of love to recover for my wondrous child now a parent and grandmother, who never questions that her daddy loved her as best as any man could.