When I was four we lived in a big white house on 2nd Street, East Beach, on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Beside our house was a meadow with sand dunes so old, you couldn’t see the white sand, only the wild vegetation that had taken root. You couldn’t see the ocean on the other side, either, but you could smell it when a a breeze drifted over the dunes and waved the tall grasses with its saline breath.
When I was four, we could walk a short path through the dunes to the beach. My mom had walked the path when she was pregnant with me, too, and body surfed in the waves while I was in her belly. As a four year old I sat in the surf zone, that shallow edge of the sea, and splashed wavelets with my hands as the ocean washed over my knees. When we walked home together, with a thin crust of salt on our skin, I’d suck sea water from the tips of my pigtails.
When I was four, I picked flowers in the meadow by our house. I plucked daisies and little blue blooms, brown eyed Susans and lantana, bundled them in my four-year old hand, and delivered wildflower nosegays as gifts to my mother. She’d smile, say, “Oh, thank you, Andrea! They’re beautiful!,” then put them in water as she sneezed. I never picked up that she was allergic.
When I was four, I tasted the succulent stems of flowering grass. Compared to flat blades, those stalks with feathers of black seeds on top looked plump and juicy, and I crunched into one to see what it was like. It tasted pungent, crisp, and green. When I was four, I picked blackberries in the dunes, and I took them home to Mom and she sprinkled sugar on them, and we ate them on the porch swing on summer afternoons.
But the best part of being four was the honeysuckle. It was my favorite. The honeysuckle is what drew me out to the meadow. I’d find a big flowering patch of it, covering the side of a dune in a viny blanket of blossoms, pluck a flower from the stem, pinch the tip off with my fingernails, and suck nectar from peach colored trumpets. I could sit in the honeysuckle for an hour, sipping the sweet syrup. For while a honeysuckle bloom provides barely a drop on the adult tongue, when I was four it provided a whole drink.