Here is something I wrote several years ago when a memory returned to me and I wanted to put it into words. As I read them now I relive this experience as if it happened yesterday. Yes. It was yesterday that I was this young, wasn’t it?
At any moment, on a certain kind of late winter day, I find myself back in 1939 on a mountain of snow in Iowa, where a young girl shows me her world and inspires me again with the love she hoped I would never forget and horizons she hoped my voice would reach.
Beverly and I were convinced we were in such attunement that we could communicate non-verbally from anywhere we happened to be . . that we could surely read each other’s thoughts. Had we not met on our very first day of school and ridden the school bus together all these years, shared our secrets, crowded our Saturdays and warm summer days with hiking and biking and overnight giggles?
Until we could practice and refine this mental telepathy, however, we planned to try communicating verbally across the two miles that separated our farm homes. We remembered a recent gray, foggy day when the air hung dense and humid and sounds of cows carried clear from the meadow. Surely our voices would carry as well, and we agreed to be on alert for such a day.
It came. We were almost buried in three days of heavy snow. Monster drifts tied the house to the barn in long, white ridges. The lane was closed, filled now with deep rolling sculptures, and no school bus came. Mid-afternoon the wind died down and fog set in with a moving of warm air against the cold. A hint of spring was in the softness of its touch, yet the snow banks remained firm, packed now with a hard crust. The sky seemed close to earth and sounds were hollow. It was a weird and wonderful day. . . exactly the kind we had waited for . . and Bev would remember. I called her on the wall telephone (two shorts and a long), and we agreed upon 4:00 oclock.
I bundled up, donned my snowpants and boots, took my Big Ben alarm clock, and climbed the enormous drift that filled much of the space between the house and the barn. The crest was blown smooth and flat and I walked the length, testing its strength and looking for the highest spot with a clear shot for sound between the trees. From here I could look straight across to the roof of the barn, I could look downhill upon our house. I called out a few words. I gave a shriek, then a laugh, and they were magnified just as I had expected they would be. The stage was set, conditions were perfect, and it was four o’clock.
The fuzz from my mittens tickled my nose and I sneezed. I took them off and called hello to Beverly. Was that a sound in return? Was it Bev or was it my echo? Had we called at the same time? I put my mittens on and waited patiently for her to call to me, but there was silence, not even the sound of a dog barking or a cow mooing. I experimented then with yodeling sounds and then with words ARE YOU THERE?
Mom came out into the yard and shouted up to me, “What on earth are you doing?”
“I’m all right, Mom,” I hollered back. “I’m communicating.”
“Who are you communicating with?”
“You just communicated with Beverly on the phone not more than half an hour ago. How about you come in the house and communicate with the dust cloth?”
“Yeah, Mom, in a minute,” I said, and when she shut the door again I thought to myself, “Oh, it is delicious, absolutely delicious up here all by myself.”
The colorless sky seemed to meld into the snow-covered ground below it. There was no horizon. Everything was covered with snow, so nothing stood out to catch my eye. It was just one big soft white mushy world of wonderful feelings, and I began to sing.
“Little Sir Echo, how do you do? Yoo hoo. Yoo hoo.” It was a song I had heard on the radio and as I sang it now my voice echoed back to me from all the buildings around – the large red barn, the machine shed, the grain bin, the chicken house, and of course the fringe of maple, oak and walnut trees that framed the farm. It was like singing into a microphone from a large stage, and I imagined that the whole world was listening.
I went on to sing “The music goes round and round, OH-oh, OH-oh, oh-OH, and it comes out here.” I held my arms up, as I paraded the length of that gigantic drift, and I fingered the notes with little warm fingers inside my mittens. “Oh, you push that first valve down . . and the music goes round and round . . . da-da-DAH-dah, da-DAH, and it comes out here.” I hit the DAH with a hoarse throaty sound and a swish of my narrow hips.
It had begun to snow, quietly, moist flakes sticking to my eyelashes. Purple dusk set in and closed around me with the blanket of its awesome stillness. One yellow bulb glowed in the barn as the cows filed in for the evening milking and I saw my dad, a pail in his hand, leaning in the doorway for a moment, listening.
I stopped my prancing, stood on that mountain and sang from my heart, for the world to hear, all the way through the songs that began “Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word. .”, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,” and “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses (Ohh, he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own “. .), and worked through to a patriotic finish with My Country Tis of Thee, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (even though I didn’t know all the words), and finally, “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain . .” Lost in the echoes, my voice became a choir, and for what seemed like hours I sang with myself and “we” sang for the world. We sang all the love that I felt. My heart was swelled to bursting. Mom stepped out of the kitchen once, listened for a moment, then smiled and went back in.
I had forgotten about the dustcloth. I had forgotten about Beverly. But I had not forgotten about communicating. It was a good day for that.
– Doris Markland