On Top

“On top of Old Smoky,
All covered in cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.”

The five year old voices were all within a certain pitch range, which was several levels higher than most adults. Although I had been going to the nephews’ ballgames now and again, this was my first concert. I had forgotten Old Smoky after all these years, but now memories were bubbling up like hot gasses out of swamp mud.

Kickball with most of the kids in our tiny school on one of the teams, the smell of spring mud—disgusting and glorious at once—games of marbles in the school yard, finding evidence of fairies and magic on the forest floor, under rocks, and in the center of clusters of white birch trees.

Their voices were angelic until you opened your eyes and saw them poking and pinching each other, and squirming like they had crumbs in their pants. The sound of them sent me back to my childhood and then forward into my nephews’ deep-voiced futures of first dances, kisses, and dates. It took me to the future when they would live through self defining moments of unexpected bravery or foolishness.

I blinked and the last note hung in the air. We all clapped, and the sound of our clapping brought us back to our seats, to the concert, to the day.

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