Sometimes you can return to the past and capture the very essence of your youth.
~ Checkers and Lemon Drops ~
~ Checkers and Lemon Drops ~
The rain fell gently, the air chilled. The days at the cottage on the lake were numbered, fall would visit soon. The annual trip north to New Hampshire to visit with grandfather is remembered to this day, so very many years later.
We would arrive the last week of summer from the city, a place full of noise with many people. I was born in the city, lived in the city and would probably die some day in the city. This is the place we lived, earned our living, attended school and spent our moments. I waited for the trip north each year, to be transported to another place in time where the clock ran slower and noise did not exist. My annual trip taught me patience, how to listen to silence and the true meaning of life. My grandfather was at the center of my end of summer world, guiding me each step of the way as he ushered me from birth to young adulthood. The year he passed my lessons about life in the north woods near the lake abruptly ended.
Decades later I find myself traveling north with my wife and children, from the congestion of the city to the silence of the forest, I think about what life is and what life was. We kept grandfather’s cottage and still visit once a year as summer concludes. We sit on the front porch, listen to loons and inhale the heavenly scent of the surrounding pine forest.
My earliest memories return with each visit. A checker board, well worn with red and black wooden game pieces, sits on a shelf in the hall closet next to the extra blankets that ward off cold fall evenings. The game of checkers was a daily event at camp, grandfather would set up the game and remove one lemon drop from the amber colored mason jar he always kept within reach. The sun would set as we settled, igniting a kerosene lantern near the gameboard. I played to win, that elusive lemon drop was the coveted prize. Grandfather played for the comfort of companionship. With our very own objectives we played each and every evening as summer came to close, the crickets chirping, the cool breeze from the lake and the taste of victory, my lemon drop.
As I arrive at camp this year, I do not have any agendas, deadlines or anxiety. I am here to bid another summer farewell. I set up my gameboard and arrange the checkers. I place the amber mason jar in my lap and remove one lemon drop from within. I play each of my children, it really doesn’t matter if I win or lose. I’m with my family this cool evening by the lake. Sitting on the same porch with a kerosene lantern nearby as my children gaze at the coveted lemon drop on the edge of the table.
Another summer concluded; we pack our belongings for the trip back to the city. I secure the cabin for the oncoming New Hampshire winter and take one last look at the porch where I spent my youth. With the last of my children safely in the car I raise my arm one last time and smile.
See you next year grandfather.
~ James W. Spain