Honeysuckle has a rich perfume redolent of the summers of my childhood spent in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The long days of summer would stretch out before me as I focused on building up callouses on my bare feet, finding mason jars to house lightning bugs and harvesting the sweet nectar of honeysuckles. I’d search through the climbing, creeping confines of the honeysuckle bush. With each fragrant flower I’d pull the thread like stem and watch as a tiny clear, sticky drop of nectar would emerge. Nature’s candy. Pressing the sweet treat to my tongue I’d enjoy the tiny delight and a moment later search for the next flower.
I also spent plenty of time jumping off picnic tables and trying to defy gravity with my best friend and neighbor Ashley. Ashley was a year younger than me, a toe headed country boy who dreamt of being a professional wrestler. We created games like Danger workers that involved shimmying along the brick window sill between the house and a holly bush to save invisible victims. We harvested ” Poconos”and fern fronds to cook over imaginary fires. We rode our bikes from dusk until dawn, captured fireflies and ants. We played with Star Wars action figures in a heap of red clay that had appeared when the septic tank had to be dug up. I was always Princess Leah and lamented the obvious dearth of female characters in action movies. At least she was spunky.
One week Ashley went away to summer camp for a week. At nine years old a week seemed like an eternity to be without my friend. And I was jealous that my family wasn’t able to send me away to camp. So I created an imaginary camp of my own. I made piggy banks out of discarded milk cartons and made stick houses for cicadas. I even created imaginary drama with imaginary campers. Ashely would return home each afternoon with his newly tie dyed T-shirt or acorn mobile and I’d show off my cardboard squirrel and share my imaginary camp drama. On the forth day of camp Ashley split his chin open while roller skating and had to go to the hospital for stitches. I couldn’t match that drama, so I pretended my camp ended early. It was getting to be too elaborate a hoax. I felt pressure to up the ante every day. By Thursday I was exhausted with keeping up my make believe world.
I actually didn’t mind being alone. I was quite proficient at entertaining myself. Without others there to distract I had all my thoughts and imagination free to roam about. In cut off jeans or terry cloth jumpers I’d make my way through muddy ditches, rocky creeks and shady woods. Not to mention the entire days worth of make believe camp drama I created.
I’d have to guess that the amount of time I actually spent in a honeysuckle bush was probably pretty minimal relative to the activities of a summer day. However the dizzy sweet aroma of the honeysuckle continues to bring back this entire rush of emotions. I can feel mud between my naked toes, the anxiety of lying, the exhilaration from running across hot pavement in bare feet, the absolute joy of an everyday water sprinkler and the taste of melting, dripping Popsicles. Inhaling I recall the rough and scratchy heat of bricks as I slid across my window sill, the sting of a honey bee hidden in clover, the innocence of a first kiss, the rush of watching roman candles explode in the street, the sigh of sunset and the first glow of fireflies. Summer is full of the simplest pleasures. What smell takes you back?