Neighborhood games were the norm at Fox Run.
I would escape for hours in the hot Alabama sun with an assorted brother-sister pack, ready to chase any excitement that came our way. I remember staring at the backs of big brothers, the backs of their reddish brown heads, as I tried to catch up. The sound of the birds sang over our heads and dogs barked in the distance as if in unison to the stomping of our feet. The nearly silent whisp of our arms swayed effortlessly with the wind, rocking back and forth like the minute hand of a grandfather clock.
We would barely speak sometimes, just play.
Our curiosity was enormous, as big as the clouds.
There were foul-smelling, dark tunnels we would get lost in. In my own mind, I was escaping underground to China. My hands and knees were muddy and that’s how I knew it was a good day.
One rainy afternoon, my brother and his friend decided to turn all of the backyards into a never-ending golf course. His friend swung back fearlessly only for his club to meet the forehead of the "Neighborhood Miss Priss". Her forehead became Mount Everest in just seconds and my brother’s friend learned an important lesson that day: Always look over your shoulder before you swing a golf club.
Hide and seek was a weekly tradition, and as I played with friends four times my size and strength, I remember giving up much sooner than the others. I would sit cross-legged on the sidewalk, my chin sinking deep into the palms of my hands after long stretches of monotonous searching. “I GIVE UP” I would yell, my veins nearly exploding out of the sides of my neck.
But pride never allowed the hiders to surrender to the fight.
They would hide all day if I let them.
There was something about coming back inside after hours of play, where you just felt alive. You knew you had made all the best decisions a child could make. Your muscles were worn out from all of the running and climbing and you were out of breath until the minute just before bedtime.
The smell of the earth on your skin.
Sticks in your hair.
Dirt stuck under your fingernails for days on end.
As I get older, the rich smell of the earth can fade a little too quickly with 9-5 restrictions and excel documents to complete.
I often long for the days beneath the trees, running as fast as ever, my heels sinking into the mud and never noticing the stains seeping away at my elbows and knees.
I miss the days where the only deadline I knew was dinner, and the only alarm clock I knew was my stomach, announcing its desperate need for attention with the roar of a lion.
For All Things Good in the world-
Let us return to the days of our youth.
To the Trees, the Dirt, and the Mud.
To the tunnels to China and the sticks in our hair.
Let us return to life.