A Legacy of Love
We nearly drove past our driveway, overgrown as
it was with field grasses as tall as a five-year-old.
The log gate across the drive bearing the sign warning that
“Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” lies parched and
broken across the the curvy, rock-strewn climb to the cabin,
its 48 years of dedicated service seemingly dismissed as
if no longer relevant, harkening to a time long past.
Pulling in to park, the first thing I notice
(being of an age to notice such important matters)
is that the path to the outhouse is nearly obscured.
Though the cabin has stood here since 1967,
three years of absenteeism is all its taken
for the Quakin’ Asps to begin to reclaim
what was rightfully theirs before humans came.
The pines, scraggly, deformed, have fought a long,
hard battle with a beetle infestation the last four years
courtesy of the Forest Service’s no interference policy.
Some of their wounded still stand, barely breathing,
leaning like exhausted Indian braves too weary to
fight one more bug.
Rotting casualties litter the ground waiting to be given
their proper Native American burial in fires that will wrap
our nights in the last of their light and warmth, and feed
us roasted hot dogs and marshmallows while we sip bottles
of beer, toasting their journey through this cycle of their lives.
One such pine, a proper warrior by the looks of it,
not content to accept its beetly fate so meekly, has
taken refuge on the roof at the back of the cabin
dislodging shingles and causing cracks in the
dry wood of the bedroom ceiling upstairs.
I stare at the bare, Aspen-speckled lot that has been our
refuge from the summer heat of the valley for nearly
five decades, and grieve for what was. I listen closely
for the chattered squirrel greetings that never failed to
welcome us with our offerings of nuts and pieces of bread.
But they are silent, perhaps having gone away as the pines.
It’s as if Buckeye Haven* lost its heart and its soul
with the untimely passing of our parents.
* * * * *
His lordship and Bran have gone off early to fish while I sit
here at my laptop listening to the gas furnace kick off and on
accompanied by a jazzy, big-band version of “Moonlight Serenade”
oozing smoothly from the speakers. I hear echoes of dad’s Gibson
guitar’s rhythm, Jerry Mansfield’s sax, his son Ren’s bass, and
whoever else brought along an instrument to join in as they
sat around the campfire and “jammed” to songs of the war years
and the Sons of the Pioneers’ “Tumbling Tumble Weeds”, family
friends congregating on old school bus seats repurposed for seating
about the fire pit. I hear it as if it were yesterday: the singing,
the laughter, the camaraderie — the life my parents ignited as
they shared all they had with friends or with anyone who stopped
by from the neighboring cabins.
We tried, my sister and I and our families, to recreate
that magical time. Family camps, when all our homies
would come with their youngens’ and critters for three-day
weekends. A cabin that slept ten coddling 27 bodies laid out
wall to wall on the floor to sleep. Hiking, horseshoes, badminton,
tetherball, revarnishing parties, fishing, campfires at night
sharing communal sips from bottles of Merlot and Zinfindel
knowing now we were all blood brothers having partaken of
the same germs. But we couldn’t sing, we couldn’t play
instruments. Even our talking was quiet and unobtrusive,
not wanting to dispell any of the magic that might be left.
But our families are raised now. And my sister and I and
our spouses are all of a an age that going outstide to the
outhouse at 3:00 in the morning is not particularly appealing.
So here I sit, alone, my eyes searching for ghosts
of times gone by, and wondering if our kids’ families will
even care that Buckeye Haven, built with their grandparents’
own hands, exists in Trust for them for the rest of their
lives never to pass out of the family unless by unanimous
vote. And I’m glad I won’t be here to see that if it happens,
though I’m pretty sure my folks would have a thing or
two to say about it… It was the one legacy they had to
pass on to their children and their children’s children.
To sell it would be like Jacob giving away his birthright
to Esau for a meager bowl of soup…
*Named after the Ohio State Buckeyes from our home state.
There’s just no way we can recreate that sound or that magic. Why is it we never value what’s important until it’s too late?