Driving home for lunch today, I spotted the large leaves of a catalpa tree and took a quick trip back in time. The second picture on this page (the one with the large green leaves and the small white flowers--the picture I considered "borrowing" and posting here, but we all know we aren't supposed to do that) looks like a catalpa tree that was in the front yard of my childhood home.
There were lots of trees in that yard but only one catalpa tree. Its white blossoms were tubular shaped, with ruffles on their edges, and each bloom was just the right size to fit a small girl's finger. My sister and I used to cover our fingertips with blossoms and pretend we were wearing lacy gloves.
The catalpa tree grew in the strip of grass that separated the sidewalk from the street, the same grassy strip where we played under the streetlights on summer nights: Here I come. Where you from? New Orleans. What's your trade? Lemonade. Show me something if you're not afraid.
Those were the days before air conditioning and television drove everyone indoors. While we kids played under the streetlights or ventured into darker areas to catch lightning bugs, the grown-ups sat on nearby porch swings to stay cool and keep watch. Their murmured voices made us feel safe in spite of the darkness.
I miss those days.