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When I woke up on Saturday morning, I thought of Maine. Stubborn as I am, Maine was my desire that day, even though my husband had slammed the gavel down on the idea of taking a long drive to explore a land sale. Before I could linger in my rambling thoughts of a leisurely ride and a sneak peak at Acadia through our car window, the yelps of a bratty puppy told me my schedule was not my own.

So I let it go. I got up to start my day.

No sooner did I dismiss the notion, my focus shifted. I have plenty on my plate on any given day. I am writing my doctoral dissertation, painfully slowly, so there is no such thing as “free time.”

But the day was mine to claim, and once I got through the routine morning tasks, I knew where I had to go.

I have always been proud of our family home in Seymour. Set on a small hill, nestled on a wooded lot that back in the day was like living in the wilderness with only a few neighbors and away from the town bustle, our house was the idyllic place to grow up.

Trees to climb, a lawn to rough up with our sports games, a driveway for bike riding. An outdoor playground that was ours to use in whatever ways our imaginations would suggest.

john skateboard

I headed to my folks’ house intending to do a little yard work and pay a quick visit. My parents are in their 80s now, still living independently in the house my father built for us more than fifty years ago, but yard work is not an activity either of them can manage anymore. In the busy schedules that each of us creates in our lives, neither myself nor my brothers had been able to stay ahead of the yard care that was screaming to be done.

It’s a sentence my father would hate: The yard has become unkempt, to put it mildly.

Overgrown weeds have filled in the once neatly clipped front lawn that had been the site of our sled riding in the winter. The side yard was strewn with remnants of firewood bark, left behind when the winter’s stock was first piled and then deliberately relocated to the bins in our den next to the wood stove.

I know how proud my father is of the home he and Mom made for us, and how much it bothered him that he could not keep up the maintenance as he could in his younger days. I drove up the driveway, parked my car, and took it in. This was not going to be a quick or easy job. After a quick hello to Mom and Dad inside, I put on my work gloves and got to work.

There was a hard rake leaning against the side wall of the yard; the side yard of our house where our basketball hoop was.
hoop view
The hoop pole is still there, rusted but standing. The old backboard is gone, and with it, the netted hoop. But I see it in my mind.

joe dunk

It was the rake that did it. Instantly, as I grabbed it, I was back in my childhood. It was as if my grip on the rake transported me through a whoosh of memories collected over time and filed away as “the past.” dad raking.jpeg

It was the same kind of rake that I had left lying in the grass one day as a kid. I guess I must have dropped it to run off and play. Who knows? The only thing about that memory that I recall is that my younger brother John ended up falling on it.

The rake was lying flat, teeth side jutting up, like the jaws of a tiger. John was running around the yard, like we kids often did, and must have tripped. He hit the rake jaws with his forehead, I think. No scars. Barely a scratch, I recall, but he let out a wail, and I would bet that Joyce, his twin, came rushing to his side.

Even in the fuzziness of that memory, I am smiling. 

It was super humid on Saturday and I spent the day pulling weeds, dragging brush, and unintentionally unlocking memories I had not thought about in some time. That’s they way memories work. You can purposely call them forth and swim in them when you’re feeling sentimental or melancholy or are reliving a shared history with friends or family.

Or they can call you forth, inviting you to dance a while.

joe john chas kotos

This is the house I grew up in. This is the yard I played in with my five brothers and sister, in our childhood. And I love it — every bit of it, from the proud red paint color to the deep crack in the one sidewalk square that has my name etched in it.

It’s the yard where we flung a frisbee in the late afternoons of summers.

mare frisbee

The driveway we all grabbed a shovel to clear the snow in the winter, and where we played “Bank” — using the window on the side of the garage as a teller window that we would ride up to on our bikes to deposit or withdraw Monopoly money.

paul shoveling

I dragged brush from the pile where my brother Joe had taken down a tree a year ago that had been overhanging the yard. He hadn’t gotten around to finishing the cleanup, so the limbs and branches were piled like yard art.

You cannot pile up tree branches perfectly. Their natural arcs and outshoots are firm enough that you cannot make them fit together like puzzle pieces. They have to lie in their free form, twisted and fitting in where they can to form a mass of limber arms entangled but moveable.

I popped in and out of the house that day, taking water breaks and cooling off from the humidity. Each time, my folks sitting in their den would mention a tidbit from the news, or offer me something to eat or drink. On my third trip inside, I was about to pass out from overheating. Mom kept talking, failing to see that I had my head in my hands fighting off nausea.

She offered me ice cream. You’ve gotta love a cute little old mommy who is stuck at home way too much.

So my husband and I didn’t have a Fall getaway to beautiful Maine to look at a possible dream site for our retirement years. But I got a trip to my childhood, and precious time with my parents. And yeah, the yard is looking better already. Thank God for husbands who sometimes say no.

Copyright ©️2017 By Marianne V. Heffernan

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