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The Armstrong Family Circus

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Maineville • Ohio • USA

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Just Out Of Reach But Still There

Saturday July 21st 2012

by Paul Armstrong
 

 

Somewhere on Stickersville Road in rural southeast Pennsylvania in 1983 there was a boy sitting in the back up of an old pickup truck laughing with joy having an adventure just getting ice cream with his father.

 

It might have been the summer of '82 or '83. I don't recall. When looking behind my eyes into the short clips of memory I have, they form an incomplete video of my past, just out of reach to see clearly, but enough elements to echo and flutter and haunt. No matter, I couldn't have been more than ten or eleven, still jangly and high voiced with a nest full of hair and rabbit teeth. A child.

 

I don't remember if it was stifling hot, as most summers seem now; in fact I never recall heat or sweating or temperature or taste or smell. There are colors and sounds and movement and ideas. But never a full story. Never a full experience. It was a summer of the usual. I would play near our neighbors pool, not so subtly aching for an invite to swim. Or I would lay on my back in the makeshift canvas tent my grandfather had made, letting the breeze take my imagination away to some imaginary universe, my back on the mildewed cushion of a worn patio recliner. There were days filled with playing "war", riding bikes, climbing trees and exploring the wooded edge in our neighborhood, playing Atari and re-watching Star Wars until I had it memorized. It was a time when I had nothing to worry about, nothing to do, nowhere to be, I was just a boy.

 

I remember going to were my dad worked. A pharmaceutical plant called "Stuart" somewhere off highway 95, emblazoned with a turquoise "S" on a white brick square. I don't know what my dad did, I just knew this was where he was most of the time. All I knew, is this was were the truck came from.

 

Oh, that truck. It was a beaten up old Ford. I can only imagine the year or model (a late to mid 1970s F-150). As bright a blue as the company it was lent from. The bed was rusted and dented, yet glorious and rugged and as manly a thing I had ever come across. And when the day was late and we'd eaten dinner, Dad would let my sister and I get into the back and we'd drive to get ice cream at the Wawa in Kemblesville. Whether it took 5 minutes or 50 minutes I don't care, in those moments as the wind whipped our hair and yanked at our clothes, as we held on at each dip, turn and twist, it was as close to flying as I've ever come. That weathered old truck was a portal. A place I still find myself wanting to be — lost in the summer breeze of childhood.

 

 

 

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