I once read a book titled Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. I was about twelve, when I started to read the fiction novel, in the beginning of summer vacation in ’67. I found the book at an old bookstore in Santa Monica called Pappa Bach, a play on words for all the paper back books they sold. I thought I read all of the Ray Bradbury novels until I found more at the old book store. The inside of the store smelled like old paper, from old private libraries, where the aura of fantasy print came to life, even before I opened the books.
Dandelion Wine took me on an adventure into the summer of 1928, in Green Town, Illinois. I met Douglas Spaulding, a twelve-year-old boy, Tom, his playful ten-year-old brother, and his grandfather, who enjoyed making the wine. I was led through a number of short stories, all interconnected within the lives of Douglas and the townspeople of Green Town. The stories were entrenched in the magic and fantasy of a young boy’s imagination living in his summer vacation. The magic rubbed off on me, as my imagination roared throughout the summer of ’67.
Cream-Sponge Para Lifefoot Sneakers were the shoes Douglas had to have. He was sure they were magic sneakers that would help him to run faster through the grassy hills of his hometown. Even though Douglas didn’t have enough money to pay for the new sneakers, thanks to the kind store owner, he found a way to buy them. With his new magic Lifefoot sneakers, Douglas started his summer days running and jumping through episodes of wonderment and excitement. After reading about the magic sneakers, I always felt there was a touch of magic in a new pair of shoes.
“Dandelion Wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered”, Douglas would explain. I would learn of The Happiness Machine, The Green Machine, a Time Machine, a Witch, and a Tarot Witch. Machines and witches were full of magic to a young boy of the ’20s, as they are today.
SThe novel affected me like no other, in my young life. It helped me get through some tough moments during that summer, and made life a little lighter. I have always wanted to thank Mr. Bradbury for writing such a story as Dandelion Wine, but never had the chance, even though he lived not far from my house. We will soon begin another summer in California. I wonder what kind of magic it will bring. I will be sure to buy a new pair of sneakers, before it begins, as I want a little extra magical help when I run through the hills of my home town.
S. Blair Fox