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Starting Point

Midsummer night’s dream


I do not know exactly when it happened, but I know that the boy in me is completely gone.

I remember sitting in Mrs. MacGinnis’ cherry tree with my sister Anne as we picked cherries and laughed and laughed as we spit out the pits onto the grass below our dangling feet.

One summer my brother and I built a tree fort in the woods. We lined the floor with bits of old carpet, made a screened window and nailed real shingles on the roof. The night we slept in the fort, we looked for glowing wood under rotting logs, caught bullfrogs and roasted potatoes in the campfire we made in the clearing just to the left of the tree house.

When it was hot outside, we set up the Slip-n’-Slide, my sisters and brothers and I, and we rolled our smooth bodies along the wet plastic shoot that spread out along the grass, and we giggled, splashed each other and we felt just fine.

Even the moon was on our side when we were children, guiding us along the way during our night games of hide-and-seek or reflecting against our faces as my sister and I sat out on the roof outside her window and watched the bats zigzagging in the blue-black sky above our heads.

When my own children were young, we retrieved the Ragu bottle from the garbage can, rinsed it out, poked holes in the lid and chased after fireflies. I remember how the children ran to the house, turned off all the lights and showed their mother how the fireflies glowed in the Ragu jar. “Hey, we could read a book if we put it real close to the jar,” my daughter said, and she pulled down a book from the shelf, opened the pages and we all tried to read the words. And when we released the fireflies before going to bed, the children and I sang a song, shooing the flashing insects on their way.

I once wore Davy Crocket hats, baseball caps, Keds sneakers. I chewed Bazooka bubble gum, read Superman comic books, shot firecrackers on July 4th, bought a chocolate eclair from the Good Humor truck once a week, made daisy crowns, ate saltwater taffy, sold Kool-Aid on the sidewalk, rode my bike to town with Johnny, my best friend, and we bought Ring Dings or Devil Dogs all during the summer.

The rope swing over the lake, Devil’s Cave to explore, ferns, robins’ eggs, apple fights, salamander hunts, kites that never flew, girls who never kissed, marbles in the dust, Turkish Taffy, raccoons in the garbage cans, marathon Monopoly games, thunderstorms, summer, hot, open, summer, a place for boys to be pirates, and for girls to be not quite pirates, but nearly so.

My three children have grown up. One is engaged. Two are in college. I haven’t slept in a tree fort in 40 years or chased after a firefly in 15 years. I checked the thermometer outside my window and see it is 98 degrees.

I lie at night in my bed as the fan whirrs, and the hot air flows around the room like an invisible dragon. I look out my open window and see the summer moon and close my eyes, and then I dream that there is a boy out there in his Keds sneakers selling Kool-Aid.

I think that I am ready to be a grandfather.

Christopher de Vick’s most recent book is Finding Heaven (Loyola Press). He is a public school administrator and lives in Pompton Plains, N.J.

National Catholic Reporter, August 2, 2002