To go from visiting Idlewild as a child every summer to growing up and never visiting it at all to randomly going one day at the end of summer, near my 24th birthday . . . yeah . . . that's what happened.
I was on assignment yesterday for Ligonier Magazine, a publication that I'm working on that will soon be printed by the Daily American. Obviously I can't write a magazine without writing a story about Idlewild, so I called up Idlewild park, told an employee that I needed a press pass for Sunday, and snagged two--one for me and one for my boyfriend, who graciously helped me carry my notebook and camera as I walked through Idlewild for the first time in years.
Admittedly, nothing much has changed. Storybook Forest is still there. The Spider and the Tilt-a-Whirl are still there. But as we walked through the park, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I have changed. I'm not a little girl anymore. My mom, sister, cousins and aunts didn't accompany me on this trip--my fiancé did. There are new families enjoying Idlewild now. The park didn't seem as big. The Round-Up, which took my best friend Cristy years to get me to ride, doesn't seem nearly as scary as it did a decade ago.
As we navigated our way through Storybook Forest, I asked Eric to take a photo of me on the magic carpet. There exists a photo of a younger-looking Kayla surrounded by her younger-looking cousins, sitting on this exact same carpet. So this one goes out to them:
I was pretty thrilled that I got to go on the Tilt-a-Whirl. It was exactly as I had remembered, and just as fun. We also rode the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood train, the Wild Mouse and the wooden roller coaster. One of my favorite "rides" was always Confusion Hill, and this time around, Eric and I got our own personal tour of the place, which was a blast. Since it was just the two of us, I volunteered to be poor old Pete, who sleeps on a chair in the "Four Star Hotel." I remember being picked to go up on the chair when I was little, too, so I dorked out when it happened again:
I'm glad that we took our time making our way through the park. Although it was a little strange for us to be in the park without any children in tow (yeah, some people looked at us a little funny), it definitely made me look forward to taking our kids there one day. They can see what I saw. Have as just fun as I did when I was a little kid. And of course, stuff their faces with sticky globs of cotton candy the whole way home.
Take a few minutes out of your day to watch this. I think you'll be inspired.
Our summer ended while I was in the shower,
Bent over, scrubbing my legs, thinking about how
Just last evening I watched you sit on the patio, tearing
Charcoal-grilled chicken meat off the thigh. But that
Was yesterday. It is night, now, and summer is ending,
Or wait--has ended, or maybe you’re right--our Indian summer
Is just around the river bend, on its way over the mountains,
Getting ready to enter our hot lungs that make us exhale
Differently, now, tonight, yesterday, today, whenever, forever--
Because we experienced this sacred summer, together.
The big glass bottle wasn't even mine. I didn't even know it existed until Chris slapped a price sticker on it and placed it amongst the other items scattered throughout our lawn. But I liked it--its pronounced roundness, scuff marks, small neck, mini handle. It wasn't even mine, I know that, but I was devastated when some scruffy-looking stranger picked it up, handed my boyfriend one dollar, and walked away carrying it lazily by that mini handle that I liked so damn much.
Yard sale day. One of the worst days of my summer.
And to think that it was all my idea in the first place.
"Chris, why don't we get rid of all our stuff in the basement?" I asked a week before our big sale--the sale that we advertised online and in our local newspaper.
Boom. A week later and there we were, sitting on our back porch, inviting people to swing by and basically steal our shit like untamed monkeys.
'Cause that's what a yard sale basically is--a place where people can invade your lawn and carry away with them the things that used to mean something to you.
"How come none of this stuff means anything to me anymore?" I asked Chris.
We sold my sister's old basketball for 50 cents.
"Catch," Sarah says, throwing the basketball with all her might toward her older sister.
It bounces on the hot pavement and I run after it in my flip-flops.
"Run faster, Ash, o'else you're not gonna catch it!"
My seven-year-old laughter parades into my mother's ears as she leans against the door that leads into our one-car, one-truck garage. She looks young and beautiful. For a moment, I think I can somehow see my childhood reflected in her two front teeth.
"Here, Sarah," I say, throwing the basketball over my head, "next time try not to make me run after it like that."
"Will you take $1 for this disco ball?"
Suddenly I hear Janet Jackson's "All for You" playing in my childhood bedroom, where I used to plug in that very disco ball and dance like crazy in front of my small wooden-framed mirror. In addition to this disco ball and one awesome strobe light (also for sale at our yard sale), I had a blacklight that made all the stickers I plastered below it glow a bright neon green. The disco ball was there, disco balling around, when my sister walked in on me dancing like a mad woman, pretending that I was Janet Jackson (minus one exposed breast) live in concert.
I watched Chris work the lawn; he was a natural salesman, but his price slashing was getting to be a bit outrageous. Older customers waddling in to our yard with their canes wanted to pay half price for already cheap items ("Instead of 50 cents, I'll give you a dime for this!") and Chris accepted every offer.
There went my pack of old guitar picks. A pair of Chuck Taylor's. A purse. A wallet. An old kerosene lamp that I probably could've done something funky with, thanks to the invention of Pinterest. And what did we make on all of these items? A lousy $4.
"Chris, I feel like I'm better off keeping all of this stuff."
He looked at me with his you've-got-to-be-kidding eyes. Then I got self-conscious because the last thing I wanted was for my boyfriend to think that I was being materialistic.
"I'm not materialistic, Chris . . . I'm just saying . . ."
A couple in a green Ford Escort jumped out of their car and started perusing our items, hands behind their backs, walking so slowly around the tables that it was driving me crazy. Man, they were taking their grand old time. Meanwhile, I was secretly hoping that they wouldn't find anything they wanted to buy, that they would just jump right back into that green Ford Escort so Chris and I could start carrying all of our stuff back down to the basement.
"This penguin fountain . . . this is a real nice fountain."
I can't believe I sold that cute little penguin fountain for $3. I bet my mom paid approximately $25 for it a few years ago. Poor mom. She poured so much money into my penguin collection. And what did I spend my Saturday doing? Giving it all away. And it's not that I don't like penguins anymore; I love penguins! I'll always love penguins.
And I especially loved that penguin fountain. I kept it in my bedroom. It hung on my wall, to the right of my bed, and I turned it on at night because the sound of the running water helped me fall asleep.
I wondered if we could cancel our yard sale. Run around the neighborhood and take down all our signs stapled to the staple-covered telephone poles. Call the newspaper's advertising department and tell them that we wanted our money back. Box up my penguin collection and strobe light and walk up to the playground to see if that old woman was there and if so, would she let me buy back Sarah's basketball?
I couldn't help thinking that all my items for sale had feelings, and they couldn't help feeling betrayed by me--just like Radio, Lampy, Blanky, and Kirby from one of my favorite childhood movies, The Brave Little Toaster.
At 3 p.m., I started boxing up all my stuff.
"Chris, I promise I'll find a place for this stuff in the basement . . . and I promise it won't take up too much room."
"Oh. Well I was planning to just donate all this stuff to Goodwill."
To Goodwill? What good was that?
We spent the next hour packing Chris's car with boxes full of all the unsold items that used to mean something to us. All the things that we treasured, at one time or another. All of the items that I wanted to keep without worrying that Chris would think less of me.
My entire penguin collection is now lining the shelves at our local Goodwill. I don't have the heart to go in there. I'll probably avoid the place for months.
"Just think: now all of these things can mean something to other people," Chris said, wiping his hands on his denim jeans before putting his sweaty arm around me.
I was looking through old photographs and folders at my workplace yesterday when I came across this old letter. If you appreciate language and the way people use it--especially people who lived "way back when"--hopefully you'll appreciate this as much as I do. May your mind be so completely unclouded.
Tomorrow is September,
the first month of the year,
and in the
will sit at her living
room table and question why
his hands wave
in front of her face when the
re-arranged, so all the
empty days can be filled with
appointments somewhere in
between the thin time lines.
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .