The Lake News Online
by Antonio Prokup
The Chill Disappears in the Warmth of Their Hands
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By Antonio Prokup
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Oct. 31, 2013 11:29 a.m.

The year was 2013 in the month of October when I first experienced the "chill." I was sitting in the creek bed of sand and rocks. The lack of rain throughout the summer months had caused the once green grass to disappear, leaving huge cracks the size of a Missouri Grand Canyon to meander like lightning streaks on the ground. The once-full creek, desolate and bare, made a sandy beach of sorts. As the "chill" moved through me, I quickly looked around me thinking a breeze had moved in. However, the fall leaves of gold and orange stood motionless which giving me an eerie feeling down to my toes buried in the sand.
My family had gathered, as they have been doing since 1979, in the field of the Chiarottino farm to celebrate the life of my great grandfather, Grazeo Chiarottino. He had died in this field while chopping wood, and an annual picnic in the very spot of his death had emerged. Fun, food and exploring are always the main activities for the day. This day started no differently than any of the others until the "chill." I took a concerned look at my family around me and noticed something very strange. It appeared I was looking at them through glasses which made them seem distant and not a part of my world. Their actions seemed to be deliberate and in slow motion and yet seemed quite normal. Then suddenly it occurred to me, I couldn't hear the obvious noises I was witnessing. I shook my head and banged on my ears but to no avail. The only sound I heard was my heart beating faster and faster. As I stood up, I noticed my feet weren't touching the sand anymore. I seemed to be floating and yet walking at the same time as if a transparent floor were beneath my feet. I tried to walk toward my family, who were up the hill a short distance from me, but instead of getting closer to them, I seemed to be moving farther and farther away. I kept wanting them to look at me and notice I was in trouble, however, they had no reason to search for me because they had no reason to worry. I had always spent most of the day during this annual picnic away from the crowd and finally in the late evening i usually would find my way up the hill to head home. Fully aware the time was around noon, I knew they would not come looking for me for a long, long time.
The transparent conveyor belt took me farther, farther away from the comfort of my family, and all the while I kept feeling this uncomfortable chill in my bones. Then suddenly as if I had turned off a television picture, my family disappeared, and I was standing on the ground once more. The trees around me were absolutely beautiful with the leaves in the brightest autumn colors I had ever seen. I started walking, not knowing where I was heading. In the distance I heard the sound of a car approaching. I turned in the direction of the motor sound, and I saw a blue, antique car moving slowly in my direction. After observing the car for awhile, I realized it was the old, blue Ford owned by my great-great uncle Mike. This old car has been parked in the dump pile located in this very field for years. Instead of mice-eaten upholstery and rusted frame with four flat tires, the car was perfectly in tact, shimmering in the sun. As the car approached, I noticed there were no occupants- the car was driving itself, and the steering wheel was turning ever so slightly as if an invisible person were guiding the car straight to me. When the car stopped in front of me, the passenger door opened as if to say enter, and so I did. At this point after closing the door, I realized the "chill" had left and a very calm and peaceful feeling replaced my fear.
The car drove on for a time, but we didn't seem to be driving in the field or even on a road. As we drove different visions moved past the car windows, and I noticed the visions were events of my past; events such as vacation spots, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. The visions were so real I felt I could reach my hand out the window and touch them and become a part of that time again. I didn't move; however, I simply sat back and watched. As I was watching the visions, I noticed the scenes were going past in decreasing chronological order. I was no longer 18 years old, but ten, then five, then one, and then the car stopped.
After the car stopped, my passenger door opened, and I stepped out. When my foot hit the ground, everything went pitch black. I could no longer see. The thought of not seeing should have terrified me, but instead I felt an enormous sense of calm coming over me. I walked a few steps when I felt a distinct presence surrounding me, and then someone took my hand, and I knew I was to follow. Blindly we walked hand in hand until I saw a light ahead of me. The light at first was the size of a pinhole, and as we walked closer to the light, the hole increased in size. I felt as if I were walking through a tunnel, and felt such desperation to reach my destination. The only concern I had was of course, what was my destination?
After what felt like several minutes of walking, we reached the end of the tunnel. The scene in front of me was nothing short of miraculous! Standing in front of me was a group of people surrounding a little, white house. I'm sure you're thinking why is that miraculous? The house in front of me was the house my family refers to as the "homestead," and the people surrounding the house were children of all ages and sizes. I couldn't be sure of the identities of each child but I knew they belonged to this vision and therefor seemed very familiar. The children were enjoying games such as tag, hide and seek, and Annie over, just to name a few. Some of the children were riding trikes and mini cars up and down the sidewalk. I tried to interact with some of the kids, but no one paid any attention to me. When I turned to ask my friend from the tunnel a question, he or she had disappeared. So, willingly I stood and watched the activities of the children who obviously could not see me. After a while I made my way to the swing in the yard and sat down to enjoy my time in this special place. While I was sitting, I tried to examine each of the children to discover his or her identity. So many of them had similar facial characteristics; some with dark hair like mine , but most had light brown hair like my older sister. A few of the children sported a full head of tightly woven curls and in the barn were two red-headed children deep in conversation. Even though the children's hair colors varied, the similarities in their expressions were noticeable. I also noticed many children who did not share these qualities at all as if they were just visiting the "homestead." The only thing I was absolutely certain of, was all of them belonged in this scene at this home.
The children were enjoying themselves, evident from their smiles and laughter. At one time, some of the children made their way to the barn and filled a gunny sack full of hay that was scattered on the floor. Then with a long rope which was tied to the barn rafters and also tied to the end of the sack, the children took the sack up to the top of the bales and then jumped for an amazing swing through the barn. After a turn on the swing, some of the children made their way back to the yard, but needed to walk carefully or they could end up with a couple of fresh cow patties squished between their toes. Fortunately a few kids were having a water fight with the hose, so cleaning up was a snap. A little children's pool was located on the cement pad next to the shanty, and I noticed a little boy with black hair sitting and splashing in the pool. I seemed especially drawn to this little boy.
Just about that time when I was admiring the little boy, the familiar "chill" came upon me. This time, the "chill" was really a chill. Suddenly my vision turned to white, and each of these rambunctious kids was wearing snowsuits and trudging through the snow. Each was carrying a sled. Some sleds were older sleds with the old fashioned runners, and some were plastic toboggans. It was then I noticed the children were dressed quite differently from each other. The styles of clothing varied from the styles of the 30's to the styles of today. It was with this observation, I realized my vision had allowed me to witness many different groups of children from different decades. I quickly turned around to look for the little boy from the pool and I couldn't see him. Disappointed, I turned away and then heard the bang of the house door. Turning to look in the direction of the sound, I saw a little girl with a bright pick snowsuit on running or more accurately waddling toward the others who had already commenced sled riding down the enormous hill. When the little girl unknowingly passed me, I realized it wasn't a little girl at all, but was the little boy I had been gazing at earlier.
After several minutes of enjoying the sled riders, I noticed the snow melting and like the snow, the children's winter clothing disappeared. Back in the house yard, kids were piling up the thousands of dead autumn leaves. What fun they were having jumping into and throwing those leaves. By one of the huge, magnificent looking trees, some children had hauled water to the sand pile to make mud pies. I wandered through the yard in awe of the simplicity of the play activities and yet each and everyone were having a wonderful time. I sat down once more on the much-loved swing to simply take in the vision of memories I had been given. Some of the visions I witnessed were my memories and some were not. I understood I had been given a gift. I was given the gift of hundreds of other children's memories relating to this remarkable home. Then, as I had just relaxed, I felt the "chill" and suddenly sadness enveloped the space surrounding me. The dinner bell hung on the post by the barnyard fence was ringing and the children were walking away. Each walked hand in hand going in various directions and all with a glow of happiness on their faces. As they were walking away, that familiar touch of a hand grabbing my hand developed and I was being guided back through the tunnel to the blackness within.
The blackness was not frightening anymore. My heart was full of pure pleasure and I desperately hoped it would not go away. When we reached the beautiful blue Ford, the passenger door once again opened for me allowing me to sit on the immaculate upholstered seat. As I placed my hand on the seat, I felt something different. It wasn't a cloth feeling from the upholstery, but the feel of soft leather. I could not see the object, but I let my fingers explore. As I moved my fingers inch by inch in several directions, the object became clear in my mind- a leather jacket or coat. I kept my hand there as I traveled, feeling certain I was heading back to 2013 and the picnic.
The visions once again passed by my window only this time in increasing chronological order. Anxious to get back to my life, I was captively watching each scene with great anticipation. Just when I took comfort in the thought of returning, I noticed I couldn't recognize the scenes any longer. I had passed the scene of the picnic and hadn't stopped. The visions passing my window were foreign to me. I believed I was actually in the scenes; however, I could not recognize myself anymore. The "chill" came and went as we were traveling, and I became terrified. I tried to open the door of the blue Ford, but I could not. I was trapped- never to return to my life, I surmised. Suddenly the car stopped; the door opened; I stepped out, but this time when everything went black. I had some comfort from the previous experience. And then it dawned on me. I had traveled beyond 2013, and I was so excited to get a glimpse of my future. The familiar touch of a hand guided me through the tunnel following the light. I was absolutely sure what I was going to see, and my heart was exploding with excitement and pleasure based on what I had seen earlier at the end of this tunnel. And then I fell! My body landed on the sand of that barren creek and my family still on the hill involved in the same activities as before, unaware I had left.
Many times I have wondered what I was not allowed to see at the end of the tunnel and why it was kept from me. What would the vision have been? One thing I know for sure, is the hand that guided me in and out of the tunnel was a hand of caring and love. The touch of that hand is the memory that will last long after the visions have faded.

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