At least once a year, I read Ray Bradbuary’s Dandelion Wine cover to cover. It has been a soul tradition since I first picked up the paperback at age 15 and lost a bit of my heart among the pages. And who wouldn’t? The book is a celebration of childhood and summertime equally, of life and death and the daily discoveries that make them so much more, written in the most delicious prose I’ve ever tasted.
“His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire. Ten thousand individual hairs grew a millionth of an inch on his head. He heard the twin hearts beating in each ear, the third heart beating in his throat, the two hearts throbbing his wrists, the real heart pounding his chest. The million pores on his body opened.
I’m really alive! he thought. I never knew it before…” *
Every time I venture into its pages, I am twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding. I suddenly feel the need for tennis shoes and old-fashioned lime-vanilla ice, plus a sip of the mysterious dandelion wine just to try. I experience all the curiosity and fear and wondering joy woven into the stories. But despite how much I love the book, my heart floods with a soft pale-pink sadness at the end of each chapter because I wish it were mine. The writing. The nostalgia. The memories in print.
I have a hard time explaining the way Dandelion Wine tugs at me because it’s not jealousy… yet it is. I dearly want to write a book that captures people’s imaginations in the same way, and I think I could. I feel the magic slumbering just beneath the surface of my ability. But I’m missing the nostalgia, and that’s one thing a writer can’t make up. My childhood memories will never make the cut for an exploration of whimsy, and this dear adult life of mine needs a few more years to brew still.
So I take the book for what it was to me at 15—a miraculous first date with metaphors—and what it is to me now—a diamond trembling with a thousand emotional hues. My sadness is not an enemy, nor is it the face of defeat. Rather, it’s the whispered promise of nostalgia in my future. You will write of your own magic one day, you will…
* I had a ridiculously hard time choosing an exemplary passage from the book because every sentence in the thing is perfect. Some lazy day this summer, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, pick up a copy of Dandelion Wine, and read until your toes begin to tingle. That’s an order.