I bought a pack of gum at Family Express the other day. I opened a piece, and then I was eight.
The smell of spearmint took me to Independence Hill in Merrillville where my grandparents lived.
Pop asking me, "You want a cake of gum?"
My grandma coasting down the big hill in the car.
In retrospect, the hill was pretty small.
Summer nights on the screened porch. Crickets.
Spending the night.
Watching "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island."
Eating Neapolitan ice cream and Little Debbie snack cakes.
Satin pillowcase under my head.
Baseball game softly playing on the radio.
Grandma's fried chicken.
Iced tea so sweet it made my teeth hurt.
Pop reminding me that he never left Green County until he was sixteen years old.
Small house, so cozy.
Trips to Dairy Queen.
Picking tomatoes out of the garden and eating them like apples.
Big circles on the riding lawnmower.
The green candle on the living room table that was never burned, not once.
Running to the neighbor's house because she always had candy bars in the freezer for us.
Grandma's wash and set.
Pop pronouncing my name with the emphasis on the second syllable, the right way.
Always ready for the next visit and the next.
Feeling safe and loved.
And then I was forty-one and wished I had one more night.