I see me over there, 12, riding my silver Huffy up and down these paved paths between the graves with no care for the magic that holds the bike upright. It’s a quiet summer late-morning, then and now. I came to listen to the wind in the tall trees, to smell the green, read the names. This was prime space for leaf collecting and skateboarding. Older kids held hands here. The stones kept us from sledding. I knew these paths, these stone names. I know them still.
I see me over there, 12. Seventh grade looms ahead. I’m sporting a popular hairstyle we’ll laugh about at our 20-year reunion. The baseball team on my hat will win the World Series in five years and maybe never again. Twenty-six years and counting, now.
It’s impossible to imagine that I will live again in this neighborhood, years hence. I’ll live just over there, down that funny street with the tree in the middle, the dead-end adjacent to this cemetery. I’ll learn on that road to care about the magic that holds me upright.
I’ll come to this place again on summer mornings. I’ll walk rather than ride. I’ll walk these hills and look at the stones and wear earphones. I’ll walk to stave off the joint pain of an older body. I’ll see stones in ways I can’t imagine at 12. I’ll see new stones.
I see me over there, 12, in that vacant spot near the wrought-iron fence. A Pennsylvanian black granite stone will stand there one day bearing my surname just above the engraved Snoopy and the inscription “Born to Heaven.” On each of my morning walks, I’ll ruffle the scratchy top of that stone like the hair of a small boy. The stone will hold me upright.
The boy, 12, rides past me through alternating light and leafy shade. He teeters and corrects, teeters and corrects. His knobby bike tires chew the asphalt as he coasts away.
I brush the scratchy top of my baby boy’s Snoopy stone. I listen to music the 12-year-old hasn’t heard yet.