We drove to Maine and back on a Sunday, my older daughter sleeping in the passenger seat, stunned-looking from the night shift. We traveled with another driver and, true to my experience in Maine, pulled over a few times to consult whether we’d gotten lost or not.
At the end of our journey was an airy summer house on a blue puzzle-piece lake, and my 13-year-old, looking even taller, walking under the shady oaks to us.
A narrow wooden-slat bridge led from the shore to boulders in the water. The wind blowing over the rocky crest and the stunted pines growing from stone reminded me of climbing above tree line — one of our cherished summer activities — surrounded by terrific swimming. On the shore, the scent of sunlight on the sandy soil and the fallen pine needles reminded me of camping in the high desert mountains, so many long weeks of tent-living when I was a girl.
This usually quiet child chattered all the way home, about kayaking around the lake with her friend, the four pizzas they made for dinner one night, visiting a yarn store she knew I would love; about the snails her friend’s father gathered and she didn’t eat; about the fish he smoked that was delicious.
Then we were home again, to her cats and her chicken chores and her own bed.
I once described this child’s great strength as pragmatism. Like any parent, the jury’s still out on what she’ll cherish from her own childhood — in a terrible illustration of the best-laid plans heading south, her father has disappeared — yet she’s sunny and even-keeled, happy to be with these people, happy to have this summertime adventure.
I sit here
on the perfect end
of a star, watching light
pour itself toward
— Richard Brautigan