The melodic creaking from the porch swing was peaceful as I sat next to Mama Minnie in silence. My little legs were so short that my feet barely hung off the seat as we glided forward and backward. Wind whistled through the screened open windows and occasionally the wooden door rattled just a little.
Mama Minnie and Daddy Cecil lived on a farm in a typical farm house with crops, animals and lots of interesting things that I never saw in the suburbs at our home. My great grandparents were the oldest people I knew and when they smiled, their eyes twinkled. Visiting them was always a thrill.
Dad walked onto the porch and asked, “Do you want to get some gumballs?”
Mama Minnie stopped the double wide porch swing and Dad helped me jump down onto the floor. My black patent leather shoes clacked against the wood of the porch floor. I always thought that they made me a “big girl” because they made the sound of women’s high heel shoes.
The Gumball tree, planted directly in front of the house, was very tall and big around. A mature gumball tree can reach heights of more than one hundred feet and as much as sixty feet wide. The proper name for this tree is an American Sweetgum, but it is also called a Redgum, Star-Leafed Gum or just a Gum tree. To me, however, it was the Gumball tree.
The seeds of the Gumball tree are found in a pointed, spike shaped ball that is green in color. In time, the balls fall to the ground, dry up and turn brown. That is when the fun begins!
Leaning over, inspecting one small brown gumball at a time, I searched for the “good” ones which meant that none of the spikes had been crushed or broken. Dad grabbed a couple and started throwing them out into the yard so far that I could not see them hit the ground.
I thought Dad was as strong as Superman.
Getting dirty was not an option for such a prissy little girl, so I held a gumball in one hand and searched for another one with the other hand. As I happily explored, Mom had joined Mama Minnie on the porch swing, talking and laughing as the creaking continued.
Squatting down to look closer at the gumballs, I continued my search. This one was bent. That one had a bug on it. While yet another one did not have enough spikes. Finally, I saw the perfect gumball. I carefully inspected it for oddities, but it was truly perfect.
I stood up and walked over to Dad. “Look Dad,” I said, holding the gumball up and squinting in the bright sunlight, “this is a good gumball.”
Dad reached over and tousled my curls, chuckling a little bit.
I tiptoed through the grass to the steps of the porch. Eagerly I went in and showed Mama Minnie and Mom my prized gumball. They smiled and Mom acted like it was the first time she had ever seen a gumball. I obviously was very proud of this great find.
On the two hour trip back home, my gumball was either held or lovingly placed on the seat next to me. I stared it because it held a magic power…memories. The gumball could take me back to Mama Minnie and Daddy Cecil’s front porch. It made me feel special because Mom was so proud that I had found the perfect gumball in the middle of thousands that lay on the ground under that huge tree. One prickly, brown gumball could have me standing next to my Dad who was better than Superman.
Yes, the gumball was magical.
I walked through the park as the sun was setting a couple weeks ago, just looking at the beauty of nature around me and soaking in peace. At the edge of the clump of trees, there were honeysuckles, buttercups, butterflies and…
Then I saw it.
Laying on the dried leaves was the magical gumball and I was immediately thrown back to being a dainty three year old surrounded by people who loved me. Much to my embarrassment and without warning, I burst into tears. At first, it was tears of sadness because Mama Minnie, Daddy Cecil and Dad have passed away. The memories of each of them weighed heavy on my heart, but soon the pain subsided and was replaced with thankfulness.
I was abundantly grateful that my mother is still alive and that I was loved, cherished and nurtured as a child. As I took pictures of the gumballs, it was almost as if my loving family was there with me.
A familiar feeling of safety and well-being washed over me.
Life may be hard, but I have people that are rooting for me to win this awesome challenge. They want me to succeed and experience happiness. I felt so loved in the middle of the park taking pictures of gumballs and the wonderful feelings softly surrounded me as I walked back to the car.
Yes, the small, spiky, brown gumball still held the same magical powers.
is not what happens to you
but what you remember
and how you remember it.”