When I was a child coming out of the mists of formative memory, I spent a lot of time running through the grass and trees surrounding our neighborhood. Our back yard, yet to be boxed by newer houses and all their fences, melded nicely into a small forest, just right for a child to get lost, but not dangerously so. Other children must have gone through as well, many times, for there was a path worn into the brush. Flying past wildflowers and sweet clover, I followed that path to a small white house with an overhang, and sitting underneath on most days, two women: a mother and a daughter.
The portly mother never failed to greet me with a huge smile. The daughter was near adulthood and soft spoken, with long blonde hair hanging down. Guarded under the awning were a set of cages holding small animals such as rabbits and hamsters. I'd poke my fingers past the metal mesh to stroke their soft fur and stare into their quick, shining eyes. They nibbled at corn and grass in such ways that made me laugh.
The sun fell through the forest of trees, around the overhang, to the sandaled feet of mother and daughter, and there seemed to be music coming from the shifting leaves. I felt in a trance; a beautiful trance. The river of femininity, of nature, of life and joy and kindness. A gentle hand on my hair, a warm laugh, an offering of sweets and then I would leave, following the path back home where the sun was brighter and the days hotter and life longer.
A winter came and passed, and in the spring I followed the path through trees stricken of their leaves. The clover had yet to flourish; the wildflowers yet to bloom. I thought I would be greeted again, hear the warm laughter, see the tiny animals in their cages. But nothing was there. Everything had been razed for new houses to be built that summer. The house was gone, the women were gone, the animals, the overhang and the soft patterns of leaves. Gone. The only thing that remained were the water pipes, connected to nothing, and small bits of gypsum and joints of wood.