Sunflower Afternoons

I often wonder why I remember everything in my life as though it happened in a long, stretched out afternoon. The sun hanging low in the sky, casting shadows that reminded me of the creepy crawlies that hunted my dreams when that sunflower sun would finally sink below the horizon. 

I remember it in the sort of light that makes everything hazy and difficult to picture anything exactly as it was. I don’t know why I associate every memory with that near orange-yellow light but I do and it seeps from the fabric of every memory and makes me feel warm inside regardless of the emotion associated with it.  It’s strange, isn’t it?

Stranger still how as I got older the memories closer to me now seemed to dip into the navy blue of stormy nights and are woven with a different kind of haziness. Strange is the memory of the mind. Strange how I associate that peaceful, warm light with the chaos of my happy childhood and the calming deep blue with my chaotic, sometimes painful adulthood. 

I can remember lots of moments in that light. Lying on the air mattresses under the massive British plane tree of my childhood garden. The gentle green of its leaves casting a gentle natural light around my see-through blonde hair. The thousands of birds that grew, ate and died in our garden, chirping high above my head and hopping from one branch to another. Not a single one should have been strong enough to hold them. 

I remember that tree so clearly, it was as much a part of my childhood as anything. I remember it’s flaking bark that my feeble, child-like hands would pull at. I can feel its sturdiness below me as my thirty-something cousin lifts me high into the air and places me on it’s thick, low hanging branch. There is a moment – short and sweet like honey – where I wonder if this is what a giant feels like. Taller than anything and as happy as a bee. 

I can taste the richness of unbaked brownie batter on my chin and teeth and tongue. My mom holding my hand as she leads me outside to lick the bowl clean on the veranda with the dogs resting their heads on the chair far too big for me, hoping to catch a plop of batter that misses my mouth. I can feel the joy in my chest at such a simple thing. Licking the thick batter off the spoon and getting to share it with my siblings. There is nothing quite like the ability to share a treat with your best friends in the whole world – even if you were threatening them with your solid plastic doll just yesterday. 

I remember turning the livingroom into a semi-safe judo dojo with my brother. My sister helping me to drag my heavy mattress – with surprising strength – and carry it to the living room and watching as it crashes down to meet the floor next to my brother’s mattress. We would kick it into position rather than move it carefully. I remember changing into my gear, so ready to prove that his two years ahead of me meant nothing in a fight. So ready to prove that I could beat him. I remember loosing and I remember that for one of the few times in my life it didn’t matter. 

It didn’t matter because I can recall all the times he made me laugh until I cried and I can’t count all the times he was there for me when I was silently breaking on my fingers and toes. I remember it not mattering because very soon we are doing handstands in the garden and giggling and shoving each other. The taste of defeat is so faint I can hardly recall if I will ever remember it’s distinct notes as it hit my tongue. But most of all it didn’t matter because it was my brother and he was the smartest and strongest person I knew, of course, he would win. 

There are thousands of these afternoons piled onto each other, filled with tears, tumbling with laughter and all coated in a warm hazy light. A light that reminds me of the massive sunflowers we grew in the vegetable garden every time I demanded it. The same yellow that would hang in spiralling petals next to my bed every time I got really sick, after my first surgery and at each interval of my birthday. There are so many memories from that same house, in that same light but none are as clear as feeling the sun igniting the blue of my eyes, as I turned to my siblings with a feather-light giggle lifting from my lips and knowing that love and happiness are always around the corner so long as there are sunflower afternoons to remember them by. 

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