“For several weeks, I watched that tree, and then one day, seemingly all at once, it burst into white blooms. I stood there and wept like a fool, because I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and I’d lived on that block for almost three years and had never noticed it before.”
– Kaylie Jones, Lies My Mother Never Told Me
When I was 7-years-old, I used to ride my bicycle in a constant loop around the block. I would start off by cutting through the alleyway, staying close to the sides for fear of passing cars; I would diverge from that path of safety only if a large puddle were present, for how could I pass up the opportunity to streak through the oil-infested water and leave tire tracks in my wake on the blacktop? I would pass the fenced up front yard that held a frequently barking Collie, whose name I never got to know, and then turn left, pedaling fiercely to gain momentum before coasting down the curving hill of Carter Road.
The brick row homes would pass me by, flickering through my peripherals like a quickly shuffled deck of playing cards. I would tap my brakes upon reaching the stretch of cement that needed to be replaced in fear that I would hit the rocky patch and be sent flying over my handlebars. I would then stop to “pet” the lions, two molded statues guarding the walkway of the house labeled 405. I’d poke my tiny fingers inside their open mouths, imagining that they might spring to life and bite down and I’d be left with one less digit.
I’d circle my way around the bottom of the block on Taylor Drive and skid back into the alley way, the short cut; I’d have to pedal furiously to make it back up the Grant Road hill, now staring at the reverse sides of the houses that my classmates lived in. I’d usually spot a stray cat along the way, and stop to try to coax it into letting me get close enough to pet it, but it’d always run away and hide underneath Billy’s plastic swingset. I’d make it back up the hill to see the corner of our driveway and the tool shed before veering left and starting the journey all over again.
There are so many little details that I remember about that block. The stop sign at the corner of our yard stood on a rickety pole, and the sign fell off one winter in a storm. The woman across the street had a cocker spaniel who would gaze out the door every day, who I secretly called her Lady after watching that classic Disney movie. My elementary school was only one street over, and my favorite crossing guard, Miss Maria, lived across the street in the corner house with a big yard just like ours.
In my current day-to-day, I operate on autopilot. I drive for a total of 15 minutes, but cross through the lines of four different towns and probably couldn’t tell you the sights I passed on the way to my destination. I’d probably be in a hurry to accomplish a task and get moving, on my way to the next check mark on a long to-do list.
I wish I had time to be seven again, to pedal around the block like darkness wasn’t creeping up on me and I didn’t have to go inside when the streetlights came on. Growing up leaves you with less and less free time, less time to stop and enjoy the cherry blossoms falling from the tree in your aunt’s front yard or the sunshine and spring breeze creeping in through your window at 6 AM. But ultimately, life is what you make it, and if you don’t let these moments stop you in your tracks from time to time, you’re going to miss out on them completely. There really are little gifts in the every, every day.