One time when I was six I was standing in our front yard on a moonlit night, looking at the sky.
I tried to count stars, and I could see each one clearly, crisp bright white rhinestones studding a faded indigo cloak.
That was the last time I can remember seeing the world as it is, hard-edged breeze, clear air, everything alive and etching itself into existence.
In the sky I saw what I thought was a distant Christmas Tree on its side, an arrow bearing flickering lights, out of season, all the Spirits of Christmas escaping the slumbering North Pole and heading South to party.
And my mother stepped out to star the night with a cancer stick and I pointed and said, “It’s a UFO,” and she looked up and blew smoke with wonder. And she smiled with her perfect false teeth and said, “It sure is, baby,” and we were still for a moment, watching it go in silence, before the wind bit into us both again and we returned to the lemon gold lights inside our cedar green-painted house, ready to put wonder to bed.
Or, that’s what so many of the neighborhood folks often did back then. Wonder wasn’t a thing there in what dad called (when I was a kid) the armpit — or asshole (what he called it once I became an adult) — of Tennessee.
But sometimes wonder infects some people like a disease. You never shed it.
The Christmas tree UFO is still out there somewhere, I know.