I can call back the soft glow of morning's first light as it snuck into my bedroom through pink linen curtains, the fragrance of freshly picked lavender resting in a vase on my nightstand, the soft, curious sniffs on my face from our yellow Labrador as she greeted me with wet morning kisses.
I can call back the warm, organic smell my father had in the first hours of the day while still unshaven and pajama-clad, the monotone voices of National Public Radio murmuring on the stereo, the sizzling of bacon and cracking of eggs on the stove, the whirling and grinding of the blender as Dad created his famous concoction of blueberry, strawberry, grape, banana, and pineapple juices.
I can feel the cool, crisp morning air on my skin and the way it made my eyes water as we stepped out onto to the back patio and the sliding screen door snapped behind us, the dampness of the dawn's dew on the grass soaking through my tennis shoes. I can feel the roughness of the wooden fence on my palms as my brother and I raced to climb over it. I can hear the buzzing of mosquitos, the chirping of the crickets, the squawking of the birds, the humming of the locusts, the croaking of the frogs, the clinking of Gracie's collar as she ran ahead of us.
I can call back the crunch of gravel under our feet as we walked back to the old barn, the way the coolness of the shadow from the trees lining the road gave my arms goosebumps, the blinding light of the morning sun reflecting off the pond, the roar of ancient wood and metal as Dad slid the barn doors open and the aromas of horse hair, hay, and dust that came floating out.
I know how the metal tools hung neatly, high on the walls waiting to be thrust into the earth, how the wood felt solid in the palm of my small, willing hands. I know the smile in my father's eyes as he looked over what was then a plot of barren land and saw the harvest of autumn, the tenderness of his direction as he showed me how to space the seeds, the hope in his voice that his new method of discouraging weeds would finally bring success, the joy in his laugh as he caught Gracie trying to carry away his gardening gloves to bury.
I know the sensation of dark, moist earth seeping between the cracks in my palms and the spaces under my nails, the salty smell of freshly tilled dirt, the cold sting of water flowing from the hose, the creaking of the lever on the well pump, the sweat beading on my forehead and the back of my neck. I know the awe of holding a tiny-yet-powerful seed in my hand and wondering how it could ever grow into a luscious tomato, the wonder of setting it deep in a hole and covering it with soil. I know the exhilarating fear and surprise of meeting a garden snake face-to-face, the excitement of pulling a big juicy earthworm or tiny roly poly bug out of the ground, the satisfaction in chasing away lettuce-eating rabbits.
I know the cracking of corn husks as Dad pulled them off the stalks, the soft pearly touch of a ready-to-pick cherry tomato, the sticky skin of a zucchini, the pop of a green bean being pulled from its vine, the agony of carrying a giant watermelon in my arms for the long trek back to the house. I know the giant, steaming caphalon pots filled with green beans and the snapping sound they would make as Mom broke off the ends, the salivating mouths of my brother and me as we awaited fresh green beans and buttery potatoes for dinner. I know the rubbery film that would stick on my hands as I shucked fresh corn and the frustration of trying to remove every single wisp and thread from its rows, the sweetness of corn cobs cooked on the grill, the way my mother would laugh when my brother and I would stick corn kernels over our teeth to look like they were rotten, yellow, and misshapen.
I can remember the peacefulness of our backyard as the hot, sticky, summer afternoons cooled into dark, quiet evenings. I can count each tall tree and see each bed of yellow, dancing sunflowers and bright, white magnolias. I can hear my father laughing as he throws at old baseball to my brother, I can see the stars shining like thousands of fireflies in the sky, I can feel the warmth of the fire pit and the smell of perfectly roasted marshmallows. I can remember the clanking of glass as my brother and I searched the kitchen cabinets for the perfect jars, the thrill of spotting a large patch of lightning bugs, the sound of our laughter as we caught what seemed like hundreds of them, the popping sound saran wrap made as we punched little air holes for our new friends.
I can remember drifting off to sleeping staring at my new nightlights, the slight warmth my skin radiated after soaking up the sun all day, wrapping my arm around Grace as she settled deep into the cotton sheets. I can remember the quietness and soft creaking of our old ranch house when the sun went down, the soft light of the moon on my bedroom floor, the smokey smell of my father's pipe, the muffled sound of my mother's laughter.