Highway Forsythia

Every summer I found myself longing to leave.
The snow had long since melted, and
the glancing spring breeze seemed to almost 
push
me out the door.

“Don’t you think
that fall, winter, and spring
are more than enough?”
I would say,
my eyes focused on the ticking clock
above my parents’ heads.

(It didn’t use to be.)

When I was young,
Springtime in New Jersey was often heralded
by my mother’s sudden cry:
“Look! Right there! The forsythia!”

Forsythia,
(in case you did not know),
is a small,
unsuspecting,
shrub.
It’s wintertime disguise consists
of a bundle of sticks
reaching its crooked fingers into the sky
praying for a new beginning.

So eager is it,
that at the first hint of spring—
the first light peeking
through the frosted branches of the oak trees,
breaking through the dark gray mist of a Jersey winter—
the bright yellow flowers open
before the leaves have even begun
their slow,
steady,
rebirth.

We had forsythia in our backyard, along the fence, but
somehow, the flowers along I-78 always bloomed first,
with bold yellow blooms beside
the cracking asphalt.

Despite my mother’s wishes,
our backyard equivalent never grew
quite as lush.
Throughout the spring and summer,
she maintained a running tally—
as if counting (like syllables)
how many more petals
each plant had
compared to our own.

(my memories of these early days
are tinted yellow)

Summers at home
quickly turned into summers away
and the yellow faded to a soft gray
like the sun disappearing behind a cloud.
Other, different colors took their place—
but the bright yellows and greens
of a New Jersey summer
were long forgotten,
and hardly missed.

It was not until we buried my mother
beneath the vibrant yellow
that the forsythia returned.

Memories of
playing football with my parents in the backyard,
learning to ride a bike,
lazy, humid summer evenings on the back porch,
and drives down the
golden yellow highway
while belting showtunes in the car
came flooding back.

For the first time in a while,
I dreamt of a yellow summer.

 

A connoisseur of bagels, pickles, and Taylor Ham (it’s not pork roll), Jake is a proud North Jersey resident and will endlessly defend its sovereignty. Invite him to a diner at Jake.kalodner@yale.edu.

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