The leaves rustled softly as they twisted and turned at every burst of wind. The flowers and blades of grass below leaned as the wind gently pushed them from side to side. It was a warm spring day with every beautiful flower in bloom. The poppy’s yellow petals glistened underneath the afternoon sun. The children that lived at the bottoms of the poppy hill always loved days like today: days where they felt the wind at their back and the sun on their faces. These were the days that the kids would remember for the rest of their lives.
A mob of tiny footsteps could be heard as the sticks and leaves broke underneath the children’s bare feet as they ran up the beautiful hill.
“They’re coming!” one of the flowers communicated to the flowers near her. This set off a chain reaction in the flowers. They straightened their stems and alternated drooping, straightening, and waving theirs petals in a specific order. Each petal and direction represented a certain letter or phrase. It had taken months for these poppies to develop their way of communicating. The phrases they used are different from the phrases other poppies use. It was as if each group of poppies had their own dialect.
The children emerged on the top of the hill and darted straight for the large tree that stood alone at the hill’s peak. The oldest brother jumped up and grabbed one of the lower branches and climbed the tree higher and higher, jumping from limb to limb, until he was at their tree house. He untied the rope ladder and dropped it towards his sisters. The sisters took turns climbing up the ladder. After all three sisters were safely in the tree house, the brother pulled in the rope ladder. Once all of the siblings were settled into the room, they pulled their lunches out of a bag that the brother had taken with him as he climbed. All of them ate their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, without the crust, in silence.
Once finished, the youngest sister bounced over to the chest in the corner of the room and pulled out pajamas for each of her siblings. Her brother had a superhero shirt and pant set and all of the sisters had nightgowns with different characters on them. The oldest sister had rainbows and unicorns, the younger sister had lady superheroes, and the youngest sister had baby animals on hers. Their parents never let them wear pajamas in public, but they had to wear pajamas to gain entry. They changed quickly, leaving their clothes on the tree house floor, and headed towards the back section of the tree house.
The brother grabbed a piece of chalk that was sitting on the small table in the corner. He drew a large door on the wall and waited. They waited a few minutes and still nothing had happened. He turned towards his sisters and shrugged.
“These were the instructions I got last night in my dream. It’s supposed to work.”
He turned back to the chalk door and stared at his work: he was trying to find any error that he could have made. Then, his spunky youngest sister skipped forward, slid the chalk from his hand, and drew a doorknob for the chalk door. After a few seconds, a real door stood where the chalk door was drawn.
“Thanks, sis,” he offered with a smile. The spunky blonde smiled back before taking her brother’s hand in hers. The two other sisters walked forward and held their siblings hands. They all exchanged nervous glances at one another before walking forward. The youngest sister reached out, turned the knob, and headed through the doorway first. From the tree house, they immediately entered a dimly lit hallway. They walked for what felt like hours until they came to the end of the hall. There was a door to the right and to the left. They chose the door on the right. The brother turned the knob and walked through. They heard a sound unlike any other they had ever heard before.
They crossed through the doorway and felt the sand underneath their feet. They wiggled their toes in it. It was a sensation that none of them had ever felt before. They heard the calming sounds of water rushing and crashing on land. The youngest sister was the first to let go of her siblings and run towards the unfamiliar sound. Everyone followed suit. Before they knew it, their bare feet were running through the cool water. The youngest sister began splashing the ocean water into her sibling’s faces and they reacted by doing the same. With every splash, the siblings would let out joyous shrieks and giggles. The brother started to run towards the waves and once they looked like they were about to crash, he would turn and run away from them. The sisters joined in racing towards and away from the strong water. The kids spent the rest of the day alternating playing in the water and in the sand until there was only a small hint of sunshine left in the sky.
The siblings headed back towards the passage door, but before walking through, they turned back to the ocean. They draped their arms across one another and watched as the sun disappeared beyond the ocean’s edge. They each drew in one final breath, hoping to breath in the sea salt deeply enough to never forget the smell and the feeling of the ocean. They turned and headed back through the door. They walked on quietly until they made it back to the tree house.
When they went to change out of their wet pajamas into the clothes they had left on the tree house floor, they realized that the outfits didn’t fit them anymore. The boy couldn’t get the pants above his thighs and the girls’ dresses were too short. One of them couldn’t even fit the dress over her chest. When they had left, they were all younger than 10: the youngest sister was 6. Knowing they couldn’t go home in these small clothes, they pulled on the pajamas they had worn at the beach and hurriedly climbed down the rope ladder.
“They’re home. They’re finally home,” one of the poppies motioned to the neighboring ones around them.
The children walked through the poppies and down the hill. As they neared their home, they saw their parents through an open window sitting at the dining room table. They looked different from what the kids remembered. When they left, their mother’s hair was long and lush. It was a deep brown color that cascaded down her back beautifully. They remembered how their father had commanded strength and respect when he stood, walked, and talked. He was taller than any man they had ever seen. All the kids remember having to tilt their heads all the way back just to look up and see his face. But the people they saw sitting at the dining room table eating together did not look like the parents they remembered. Their mother’s hair had faded to grey and their father was sitting hunched over. They looked much older know.
The brother let go of his sister’s hand and knocked on the door. They watched as their mother walked slowly to the door. She swung the door open and stared at the strangers standing on her porch. No one said a word.