Just as on countless summer mornings, I woke to the sound of raindrops on the roof and the aroma of wet cedar. This time would be the last.
I savoured each sensation, then rose and tiptoed past my cousin and his wife asleep on the pull-out sofa. The old screen door opened silently on well-oiled hinges. Bits of newly mown grass clung to my flip-flopped feet as I crossed the lawn.
My footsteps echoed on the gritty, wet gravel of the road. Each step carried me back in time. I was twenty…fourteen…nine.
Yes, nine, without a care until September carried me home to neglect and to ridicule at school. A summer as wonderful as the eight before it, and the many to follow. Nine in July, at the cottage with Gramma…
On spindly legs, I run to the swing set that stands in the field on the other side of the road. Plop down on the wooden seat, heedless of the moisture soaking through polyester pedal pushers. The last of the rain sprinkles my face as I lean back, grasping heavy chains that soar to the crossbar 20 feet above. I drift, watching the breeze move the clouds aside, and think of the beach-castles on the shore, waves to jump, black cherry ice cream. Pumping my legs, I begin to swing higher and faster, ponytail flying behind, until I jump with a lump in my throat and tumble safely to soft grass.
Slowly I dance through the warm, musty smell of the cedar grove, pausing only to inspect a fort of fallen trunks. The soft patter of water gently falling to the loamy floor beckons me to a tunnel between the trees. It gives onto a steep, rutted road that ends at the river. Lazy lily pads, a stray bloom here and there. Clay at the water’s edge, oozing between bare toes.
Gathering the sticky gray muck, I shape a candle holder, adorn it with the imprints of a dime store ring. Tummy tingles when I think of the warm embrace, the smile on Gramma’s face when she sees her gift.
Then, running again, racing myself to other crest of a ridge, past the campfire, fleeting scent of charred wood. Full circle, back to the meadow, and I skip, laughing and splashing, though the long row of puddles that merge in the low places.
At last, home again to the richness of fresh-brewed coffee in the air, to the steady comfort of familiar cozy rooms and the loving touch of a favoured hand…
The door slammed behind me, leaving my nine-year-old memories to wander forever through field, wood and stream. My 40-year-old eyes took in piles of empty boxes waiting to be filled.
Goodbye once more to my gram, my first true love.
Goodbye, dear cottage, where that love was born.
Originally published in Wye Write More. Visit wyewrite.blogspot.ca.