I remember finding that first rock. We were digging in the woods behind my house. The entire neighborhood: Alec, Julien, Westley, Blake, Nathaniel, and I. It was a giant pink quartz, the size of a grapefruit. The creases were packed with dirt. Chipping away at the frostbitten ground in November, we began finding more and more rocks: a small white crystal, a green gem, a slab of mica, coral, and fossils. We now had a fairly large pile of artifacts in the shoebox under my bed.
I would go and look through them, thinking I had found the biggest treasure in the world. I remember Nathaniel saying how we’d all be millionaires and the two brothers fighting over what we’d spend in on. Did we want a pool for the neighborhood? A new PlayStation? The possibilities were endless, but we’d be famous anyway, the kids that discovered it all! When we had excavated the last of the rocks, we looked them over to clean out the dirt that had plastered itself into all the cracks and holes. We decided to keep it a secret, a dusty cardboard box hidden under all the other old school work under my mattress.
I remember sawing back and forth against the plywood. Our swing was going to be amazing. My arm was sore and salty sweat speckled my lip. Summer sun is the most unforgiving heat, dry and merciless. I remember the metallic jingling in our pockets of the coins we had scrounged from the junk drawer. We bought some red paint and metal hooks from the hardware store downtown. I remember the kind chuckle the cashier gave us, a bunch of kids counting out all our quarters and dimes. I remember the countless tries it took to throw the ropes over the outstretched arm of that pine tree. I remember the refreshing rush of air, and not feeling solid ground on my calloused and dirty bare feet. I remember years later, seeing the swing lifeless and dangling, a paint chipping, rope rotting, rust infected memory.
I remember the numbness, watery eyes, and stuffy nose. I remember the way snowflakes looked through the orange light of the street lamp. Let the battle begin. We rushed behind the wall of our castle. Westley, Nathaniel, and I, verse all. Packing the snow together with wet mittens I took an iceball to the lip. I remember the strength it took not to cry. The war began to die down; I remember leaning back and falling into the forgiving snow and watching my breaths turn into soft clouds against the piercing black sky. I remember snowflakes on my eyelashes; we were all going to be friends forever.
I remember the day Julien moved away. I remember the day Westely started middle school. I remember the day Alec didn’t want to come play football. I remember the day Nathaniel had too much homework to go outside. I remember the day I realized the unforgiving nature of time, the inevitability of change, and the pricelessness of simplicity.
Everyone gets the, “have fun now, ‘cause it won’t last forever kid!” from a sassy grandparent who you don’t want to believe. Sure, nothing can last forever, but I’ve got plenty of time to be a kid. The memories of simplicity that I hold onto so closely are the things that I appreciate most. They are what construct the skeleton that the layers and complications of my life cling to. Every day I feel how precious it is to have modesty, clarity, and sincerity. I remember simplicity.