Blink and It’s Gone

Smith, Liz

Photography by Liz Smith

I blink.

I blink and in that second I find myself in another place— in another time.

It’s the familiar park where I spent my youth, steps away from my childhood home. Nestled on the corner of my suburban neighborhood, this park was my social bond. I spent days on end here playing with friends. I came with others. But some days I came alone.

The pathway feels so familiar I have no need to look ahead as my feet lead me in. My mind is free to wander.

The sign is more visible in the bushes than I remember. It has faded now, worn from the weather and the years. But I can’t help but smile at the wooden planks and yellow painted letters. I remember all those times I felt rebellious as I sat on top of it.

The hill I sledded down every winter used to be a mountain. Now, it’s flattened out with mild angle. It is no longer the steep challenge I used to face. As I peer over the top, I can remember the anticipation of sliding down, my apprehension and fear of going too fast. I remember climbing back up each time, pulling my sled behind me, just waiting to feel the rush one more time.

The evergreens are rooted in the same place as they’ve always been. They towered over the neighborhood, I felt so small in their presence. They were the perfect hiding spots during games of hide-and-seek. Those trees felt like giants before, but now they feel smaller. I’ve outgrown them.

I’ve outgrown this place too. I tower over the playground; I don’t fit in the structures comfortably. It’s the world’s way of telling me that I’m no longer a part of this place, this life. I will always be able to visit, but I’ll never be apart of it, not anymore.

But there’s a kind of magic in that place, an innocence that I can never quite get back. Maybe that’s why I keep seeing it whenever I close my eyes.

It was a simpler life back then. A world where my biggest fear was riding my bike home when the world went dark, lit only by the streetlights. Where the only pain I felt was when I fell and scrapped my knee. The only disappointment was from the rain that kept us inside on those long summer days.

I guess I long for that simplicity again, a life without heartache, without disappointment, without pain.
Life before the world became honest, before time forced me to grow up. Before I learned how valuable that time was. If I’d know that then, I would have cherished every moment.

So I slip on my rose-colored glasses one more time because maybe, just maybe, I can escape my reality for a little while longer. But I am hasty. I am too eager to stay trapped in the past that I drop the glasses, cracking the lenses. The memory disappears, fading into nothing.

I blink, and the real world comes rushing back.