Remembering Hot Summer Days and Home
A couple of years ago I wrote website and brochure content for a new business founded by a compassionate and highly competent woman. She helped older couples and seniors move out of their larger homes, into something smaller, including retirement communities and/or assisted care facilities. I came to understand that both the actual move and everything it represented was tough on everyone...the seniors and their (adult) kids, etc. While I certainly thought about my own parents, it was definitely theoretical. Fast forward to now.
When I was in fifth grade, our family moved to a new house that my parents had built. I think we moved in about 10 years after Dad had founded SRI, so yeah, I was 10.
When we first looked at the property all I recall seeing was a vast sea of cattle corn. The property was sold to us by an old man, Mr. McLaughlin. For years he lived in a house right next to our driveway, near the road. He would occasionally stop by to see my parents and I recall him bringing them stuff (I don't remember what). He has long since passed and his house has been replaced by too-perfect green grass. (image credit)
So, a couple of weeks ago my boys and I went to Playscape at the Cincinnati Nature Center. Playscape "strives to re-create the kind of childhood experience many parents and grandparents had in nature when they were young."
It's about one and a half acres of grass, streams, trees, and bushes. The stream right down the middle attracts the most kids, where they walk up and down in the water, climbing over rocks and logs. Unlike your typical park, everyone...parents kids and grandparents are welcome to pick flowers, play, get wet, build forts, and just run around like madmen. We love Playscape and have been going there for years.
As I smelled the hot summer air and walked through the high crackling grass at Playscape, many memories from my parent’s home rolled into my head. I recalled the sounds and feel of hot Michigan summers at home, when there was almost always just enough wind to keep you from sweating.
For seven years, I romped, read, rode and did all sorts of things on "the back 40" behind and all around my parent's house.
Not thinking, I once got into major amounts of trouble when I rode "Herbie" the ATV (yup, we named it for the Disney move) through the planted field behind my parent's land. And no, I didn't do that again. I am told that my older brother flipped Herbie in the gravel pit and ran it into the pond a few times. I wonder what my sister did? Hmmm. (image credit)
I found out later that Dad had put an engine block on the three wheeler, so we wouldn't go too fast. Here's an ad for those ATV's, which are no longer on the market. And except for the googles, that was pretty much me those days. (image credit)
I wish we still had Herbie. So. Much. Fun.
I meandered all over that property, sneaking through the cattails around the marsh ponds to watch the muskrats and cranes. I hung out on the tire swing near the road and of course, played with our Irish Setter Patty. (image credit)
In distance I would see Dad mowing the area around the house and by the road, tractor cranking away pulling the mower (or whatever you call it).
In the winter, I hauled ass down the hill behind the house, standing on a toboggan as it zoomed down the hill. The tree on the crest is now split, hit by lightning a couple of years ago.
On the border between our property and the next, I discovered a wooden platform built up in a tree. (I suspect it was for hunting deer). I spent hours and hours there reading. (I still read outside now on our front porch, in the living room, and as my sweetie has noted pretty much anywhere else I can.)
I miss that platform. I walked back there years ago after I moved away and it was gone.
Before moving there, we lived in subdivisions around town similar in style to where I live in now...houses situated one after another on a street. When I first moved into a house in Cincinnati, it was weird having neighbors so close. I’m still not quite used to it now even after 20+ years. I miss the privacy, quiet and beauty of my parent’s house.
My parents still live there, as Mom prepares to sell it. When you drive by, it's a larger home, the wood paneling stained a deep almost rust brown. The house is set back from the road, behind a pond with a long driveway (I guess a quarter of a mile). We walked down that driveway to get on the school bus. During cold, windy Michigan winters, we would beg Mom to drive us down and let us sit in the warm car to wait.
The pond has a small (still new to me) dock. My oldest son caught his first fish on that dock.
Large willow trees sway all around the property, in front of the pond and by the house. I grew up reading under those trees, trying to turn the long branches into a hammock. My cat Wendy is buried beneath one. My oldest son N. loves those trees too and they remind him of Grandma and Grandpa Dale's house. (image credit)
Mom says "We'll move when your Dad doesn't know where he is half the time." I don't know what that means, since I can only visit every couple of months or so right now. I do understand that it needs to happen and I imagine like most of my family, I dread it.
Every time I visit, I get out and walk around. Last time, I slowly walked with Dad. He takes small, careful steps down the deck, onto the stone area around the pool and out onto the grass. I drive myself nuts, to keep myself from hovering too much. He does fall sometimes and the softer ground and elevation changes can be a challenge. And yet, I cannot bear to think that he can no longer walk around on the grass he's cut millions of times.
At least today, we could stand on the dock where he once fly fished…And I still remember seeing the fishing line gracefully S loop out over the pond, with dragon flies whizzing by.