It Was A Year Ago Today

Think about it.

I’m up at my cottage writing a novel. The setting is quaint and quiet. Every window is surrounded by green. The birds start their songs promptly at 5:30am and continue until around dusk. The photos on my bulletin board are faded and inspirational. Edith Piaf plays on the CD player until I almost grow weary of her. The slanted upper walls are painted a faded shade of yellow and the bead board screams cottage decor. The shelves are lined with devotionals and read-in-one-day novels. A thunderstorm is rolling in from the north. The memories are thick as weeds up here. My little dog sits at my feet, it’s almost as if she knows the nostalgia I find when I travel up here. If I could just get the city of Norton Shores to take out Henry Street and replace it with a tranquil, placid pond, I'd be golden.

I dangled a roast dinner with mashed potatoes, corn casserole, fresh green beans, pretzel Jell-O and ho-ho cake in front of Ben and Jennifer. They didn’t bite. But from the carnage in the kitchen sink it looks like Melissa and her friends enjoyed the ho-ho cake. They must have had an off day in la tournament de badminton.

Bike racing has to be the most grueling sport in existence, next to badminton, of course. And France wears the yellow jersey constantly for countryside gorgeousness.

Speaking of back yards, all the leaves are gone and the sky is gray. It has happened. The woods behind our house is now officially gone. No ceremony, no pomp and circumstance, not even a memorial service except in our mind's eye. It turns my stomach each time I head back there, after what seemed like 100 years of solitude, trees have given way to road and structures (that’s what I will call the typical house construction until further notice.)

That woods was so much more than physical solitude on snowy Michigan mornings or cool breezes on hot, humid, summer days. I have no history with these yet to be determined neighbors. Our history lies in the now defunct woods.

The woods played so many characters in our lives. At the beginning it was the formidable boundary that unbeknownst to the kids, kept them enjoying the simple things like sand box and swing set. It was the line they didn’t cross. Unlike the driveway and front yard, I felt safe letting the children play in the back yard unattended.

But soon the play had to venture beyond for a different kind of thrill and adventure. That’s when the woods became their dollhouses, star wars, battlefields, outer space, and even the circus. Mainly, though, it became their stage. The story of their young lives was written, practiced and played out in the backyard and woods. It was their buffer to the real world.

I would venture to say that nothing bad happened to them back there. No bad guys....except the ones they made up. No broken bones. A few teeth got knocked loose, and of course the sibling rivalry ran rampant. Nonetheless, it was a haven of sorts, a kind of camaraderie that could conquer the world.....dream big dreams and defend anyone or anything that stood in the way of their pursuit of happiness. They could wile away an afternoon faster than you could say Nintendo.

At times I feel as if I missed a couple acts of their play. I wish I could remember more. I'll get used to the treeless look, but as I gaze back there now, it seems a generation passes before my eyes. What I miss now is the childish voices happily dancing, singing, and yes, even crying. I miss the noise, chatter and confusion of children and friends. They have moved on. Every one has a story to tell, and theirs will always have 2 or 3 chapters devoted to the woods. No subdivision can ever take that away from them.

Seems I don’t really miss the trees anymore. I miss the childhoods. Exit stage right.

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