Youth by Megan Prumbach

The cold fall is settling outside, and the semester is coming to an end. What consumes most of my days now are essays and piles of school books that wall me into an inescapable room. It’s all boring and dreary, a mirror of the changing seasons outside. My thoughts now are swamped by finals and where I am going with my life. What you could probably consider settling in an existential crisis. A recent argument with my sister and some bumpy family trials at home have me bouncing around the idea of leaving to be by myself. All mundane, adult thoughts that aren’t any fun. Not one bit. Everything is stewing in my mind while I stare out of the back door and into the graying sky. The ruby and pumpkin leaves scratch the steely dome with each passing breeze, and for a second, a small piece of me yearns to abandon the boring tasks and lay in the grass outside. Somehow it would be easy to, for a brief speck of time, allow me an escape from the overwhelming chaos inside of my head. Each stressful thought tosses over and over there like a flipping coin, rattling in the not-so-empty spaces of a boring adult brain, causing more of a headache than a solution.

 

I take a momentary pause in my dull musings to make a coffee to bring me some warmth and solidity. This little task in itself is repetitive, and I scoop the rich smelling grounds into the filter like a robot. Drop the lid and click to hear the whir of it brewing. But then there it is. It catches my eye– hanging on the kitchen cabinet, above the black coffee maker, is a photo that brings back memories of simplicity. It’s me in a small town in Germany. Playing in a fountain fixed into the cobblestone ground. The water is frozen in time, shooting up in the air and spraying cool droplets all over. My arms are high above my head and my right leg in midswing– a smile graces my young face, one that I haven’t known for a little while now. I’ve known this picture has been here, but for some reason, I never paid much attention until today. In a quick rush, the memories sweep back in a flood, knocking me back in time.

 

Walks down bumpy cobblestone roads in an ombre of silvers and cerulean. We’d stroll through the little town square, my siblings and mother and I, listening to the babble of German while we chatted in English with one another. The thin and tall centuries-old townhouses that squeezed together to fit along the streets were painted in hues of rich chocolate browns and some even happy shades of warm spring green. The town we lived near fanned out in a neat little circle from a small castle bedecked with accents of shining gold filigree against pure white walls. On days where the sun peeked out from behind storm clouds- because it rains nearly every day up north- Mom would walk with us to the river wrapping around the boundaries of the castle. We would listen to the chatter of ducks while tearing crusty loaves of fresh-baked bread and feeding those that popped out of the water. And everywhere– I mean, literally any place you looked, had brilliant emerald trees and grass. The colors are what I remember most.

 

I also remember walking. We would walk nearly anywhere. You would think that the idea of walking everywhere would grow old, but every day as a kid, even the smallest tasks seemed like big adventures. Early in the morning, before the birds had even woken, we had to walk to the bus stop. From the bus stop was a sleepy, bumpy ride through town to the beginning of our journey to school. My sister, brother, and I had to trek up a grassy hill and through an old church cemetery towards the right path to school. It seems like a massive task, but it was always like we were Frodo and his friends, off on another adventure each day. My sister and I would play games up the hill to see who could climb the fastest or who could kick an acorn the farthest along the sidewalk.

 

After school, Mom would walk with us into the old town center and we’d barrel down the hill as fast as we could. The wind whipped our hair and our arms flailed around like windmills to catch our balance. I’m sure our shrieking laughter could have woken the skeletons from that little graveyard. The short trump through town brought us to our favorite bakery, the name I cannot now recall. But the front of it was sky blue and massive windows showed thousands of different loaves of bread and pastries. Walking inside wrapped you in a warm, homely blanket of smells– bread and coffee and sugary icing.

 

I relished the days that it rained, which was all the time. I would bike along a tiny dirt path behind our house, splashing through muddy puddles. I didn’t mind the rain prickling against my skin in cold droplets. There was a thrill at flying along and soaking myself to the bone. I’d imagine myself as an explorer on horseback in an unknown land even when the area became as familiar as my own face. Every little moment was a great possibility.

 

The beep of the coffee machine anchors me back to the present. I catch the ghost of a smile across my lips as the flood of memories now retreats. My chest feels tight and heavy all at once as I try to recall the last time I saw a little moment as the potential for something great. Everything seems grand and exciting when you’re a kid. But now the big things, the adult real-life things, scare me and wear me down.

 

All of those little things that now seem insignificant in the picture of life were huge moments of pure joy to a tiny eight-year-old.

 

In this weird passing glimpse of a picture so ordinary that most days I don’t pause to consider it, with the tin can rattle of the thoughts inside my head, I try to conjure up that feeling again. You know the one? The childlike wonder at the world around you. Somehow that has gotten swallowed up by the change of time.

 

But I decided to tuck these memories in my pocket, saving them for a rainy day. Life can get to be too much sometimes– too much, too fast all at once. Hopefully, they can remind me to slow down and appreciate the smallest wonders of life.

 

Biography: I am attending Aims to earn my associate’s degree in English to attend UNC and get a degree in English with a focus in Writing, Publishing, and Editing. Writing has always been something I have used to express myself and a way to paint a picture with words for others to enjoy. I grew up with my mom reading stories to me as a child, which spurred my love for literature, and I started writing stories instead of doing my schoolwork when I was in elementary school. What started off as a hobby has now become a passion of mine, and I am constantly searching for inspiration from everyday life and other authors in my writing. I was always inspired by Tolkien and Rowling, along with many, many other authors. Tolkien’s storytelling has been a huge influence on my writing, and his ability to build a whole world from words is inspiring. I hope to one day publish a novel, and am grateful for all of my experience at Aims for helping shape me into a better author and creator.