“Earth Day! Earth Day! Earth Day!” Kelsey screamed as she bounced up and down on my bed. Once she saw I was awake, she zoomed out of the room to make sure our parents were up. Considering her volume, I expected they would be. I squinted in the light. I had no idea what the time was, but it felt a whole lot earlier than usual. I shut my eyes, thinking I might be able to drift back off, but Kelsey made another fly-by, yanking down the bedclothes and tugging my foot off the bed.
“C’mon!” she said. “I don’t want to start by myself.”
I made a half-hearted protest, but I remembered how excited I’d been at her age. Earth Day had been a really big deal for me, too. And I still looked forward to it, just not quite so early. I pushed myself off the bed, found a pair of slippers and a wrapper. In the kitchen, Kelsey shoved my Earth Bucket at me. It was painted a bright green. Hers was a cheerful blue.
“Look, see what you got! I got a shovel, some gloves and pack of seeds. Flower seeds! Nats..nast…nasty somethings. But the picture is pretty.”
I looked at the packet. “Nasturtiums,” I said as she rummaged through my bucket since I was being much too slow about it.
“You got gloves, too!” She put them on, wiggling the oversized fingers and giggling. What kind of seeds are those?”
“Tomatoes,” I said. “Beans and squash.”
“Vegetables,” she said with a sour grimace. “Why didn’t you ask for banana seeds?”
“Bananas don’t grow from seeds,” I said, pulling a book out of the bottom of the bucket.
“Ohhh, what’s that?”
“’Trees of North America’,” I read. It was a beautiful book, with glossy, full-color illustrations. I paged through it, marveling at all the different colors. I looked out the window. The sun was behind us and the Full Earth floated above the horizon, lit up like a small gray pebble. I tried to figure out which wrinkled bit of dirt was North America, but I couldn’t tell. I’d seen pictures of the Earth when it had oceans and ice caps. The outlines of the continents had been easy to trace under the drifting clouds, but all that was gone now. It was just another cold, airless rock, like the one we lived on.
But it was interesting to think about what it had been like, how people used to live before the Earth’s magnetic field failed and the atmosphere was stripped away. I couldn’t imagine being able to walk outside without wearing a suit. What was it like to play in snow, to swim in an ocean? Old Earth struck me as a very wild and dangerous place – not somewhere I’d ever want to go. Still…I touched the cover of my new book, it must have been beautiful.
Our parents showed up and Kelsey squealed with the excitement of showing off her presents all over again. Mom started getting the ingredients together to make Earth Pies while Dad and I took Kelsey to the composter to fill our buckets with soil. I’d plant my seeds in the greenhouse, but Kelsey generously offered to share some ‘nasty-urshums’ with me, so I’d have something pretty to grow in my bucket, too.
They weren’t oaks, or redwoods, or even banana trees. They were just to make sure we didn’t forget. And that’s the true meaning of EarthDay, isn’t it?
“Terah!” Kelsey cried, impatient for her seeds to start growing.
I grabbed my bucket. “Coming,” I said.
Erika Wilson lives and writes in Maryland. She received a Philosophy degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis. Her work has been published by Eschatology Magazine, Everyday Weirdness, Moondrenched Fables, Strong Verse and Every Day Poets.