He stood closely to the base of the towering tree, him at about three and a half feet tall. His father was on the phone in the front yard for some privacy, but just called him over to see. After hurling my luggage into the trunk of their car so they could deliver me to the airport, I walked over to see what had caught the attention of both boys, now studying the bark.
All three of our faces now––nearly pressing into the tree’s trunk––were studying the creatures. At first glance, it was the same old bark towering up into the leaves as I had likely stood staring at over twenty-five years ago in that same yard. My mysterious and celebrated great, great-aunts likely then inside the house speaking poetry or reading Spanish and cooking spaghetti sauce. The one gracefully and quietly grinning as the other loudly laughed, the elastic waistline of her skirt bouncing up and down even with her navel where it rested.
Leaning in closer, the bark was a layer of cicadas woven golden-brown into a pattern mimicking wood chips. I’ve heard them for days now outside, but had not registered the source until this very moment. I flashed back to my own front yard over twenty-five years ago. Standing with my brother and another neighbor on the wooden ledges that formed the flower box squaring out the trunk of a towering oak just outside my bedroom window. We were filling a gallon-sized glass jar with cicadas that morning. I don’t know if we finished or what was done with our collection, but I remember that moment all those years ago as crisply as I remember this morning in my own front yard under the shadows of my great, great-aunts’ tree.
One white cicada stood in the middle of all the other golden brown creatures climbing around the curved sides of the tree. It stood out now boldly, or was now finally noticed to be standing out boldly.
The father is now back across the yard for his phone call, the son is now being directed by his mother back into his carseat rather than the road, and I’m now scanning through a mental list of things not to be forgotten before weeks away from home.
For a moment there, though, decades worth of time stuck together and I was reminded to look and see.