Savannah, or Vannie Girl, as our family has so affectionately dubbed her over the years, is particularly fond of hovering over my desk and makes the same request each time she visits.
“Write me a story, Mommy,” she says. “Did you write me a story today?”
So today, I’m going to write a story. Just for posterity’s sake. Well that, and to appease Vannie for a little while. She’s never satisfied for long. So, here goes. A story for my Vannie Girl.
My older sister Dawn and I grew up in a tiny little patch of rural heaven in west Kentucky called Princeton. We spent our entire youth living in a little neighborhood on the edge of town called Hill and Dale subdivision. My par-ents still live there. Same house. Same neighbors for the most part.
One street over, there lived two sisters about the same age named Libby and Janelle Williams. We spent count-less days together, beating a path between our house and theirs. All summer long we’d be down in the woods below our house wading in the creek, exploring caves, making mud slides down the banks and terrorizing small woodland creatures. We wore out a rope swing they had tied to a giant tree in their backyard, threw a gazillion softballs to each other in the spring, walked our legs off trick-or-treating in the fall (they didn’t name it Hill and Dale for noth-ing) and probably rolled enough snowmen in the winter to populate a small city.
Back then, it wasn’t a big deal to be gone from sunup to sundown. Mothers encouraged it. Cell phones were just a concept of the future, none of us owned a watch and we rarely brushed our hair or wore shoes. We rose early, blew through our chore list, which was payment for freedom, and didn’t come home until our mothers would yell in that exasperated tone for the third time from the back deck that supper was ready.
Anyway, one day we were all traipsing through the woods behind Janelle, whom we agreeably allowed to be the somewhat bossy, self-appointed leader. (Libby was the sweet one, Dawn was the “tomboy” and I was the gullible one always getting hurt.) She led us out of the trees to a little place at the end of their street to one of our favorite spots. We called it “The Tower.” To this day I don’t know exactly what it was other than some “utility” brick and concrete structure the city had built in the cul de sac. I just remember we weren’t supposed to climb on it, but we always did because it was just challenging enough for us to scale, which entertained us, and it was just the right size for all of us to sit on and talk. Besides, my neighbor would scold us for climbing her trees, so we really didn’t have a choice.
That particular day, Dawn decided to go home and Libby had something to do, so that left me and Janelle on “The Tower.” I remember we were lying there resting, catching our breath, laughing about the day and talking about how lucky we were to be kids, and Janelle said to me,
“You know, Sherry Dee, the best things in life are free.”
That’s all she said. Just a casual comment. Food for thought. I honestly don’t recall what we discussed after that or what we did for the rest of the day, but I never forgot those words. Over the years, when the purse strings would get tight, and even now when my kids start whining about being bored, her words echo in my mind. I could write an entire column about the negative woes of technological gadgets and how our uber-digitalized society entraps to-day’s youth, but that’s not really what the story is about. It’s just about a little girl who reached an epiphany that remained with her for life. One that still holds true.
When I went home for lunch today, I dropped my purse and keys at the front door, walked straight into my bed-room and curled up at the foot of my bed with my cat. I savored the silence and the feel of her amazingly soft white fur, while thinking about nothing in particular. And it was bliss. And free. Like a faithful friend, once again, those words floated up through my mind.
I could’ve gone out and plunked down a nice chunk of change for an overpriced meal at a restaurant, but I didn’t. I could’ve sat and stewed about all the bills stacked on top of the piano or the gas gauge in my car teetering danger-ously close to E, but I didn’t. Instead I said a little “thank you” for a quiet house and an hour of rest.
I closed my eyes and went back down to the creek with Janelle and Libby and Dawn for a little while. Flipped through the seasons in my mind, made snow angels, raked leaves and jumped in the pile of them. I climbed up on The Tower and let the sun warm my skin. I pictured me and Janelle, caked with sweat and dirt, smelling like wet grass and a couple of billy goats after rummaging through the woods all day.
And then I went back to work and wrote Vannie Girl this story. Not one full of adventure or drama or one with a hero and a villain. Not one with mystery or humor or plot or intrigue. Just a casual story. Food for thought. She might not even fully understand it or appreciate it at this point in life, but hopefully, one day … if not now then later … she’ll realize one thing for certain. This was a story meant just for her. A gift in life. Written with love. And best of all, free.
Sherry Dee Allen is a staff writer for The Catoosa County News. She can be reached at email@example.com.