As we drove I sat in the back seat of the car, since my mother sat up front in the passenger seat. Throw my open window the breeze blew fast and warm against my vibrating skin. Hair flew all about in the warm summer wind and I was content. Pasture after pasture blew by – cows and horses grazing, milling about without any speed, no determination, nowhere they had to be. Green fields flew by, one after another, sometimes with a farmer sat upon a tall, big red plow with an orange triangle on the back. Sometimes the pastures were empty of life, save the neatly lined rows of fresh food growing from the earth – cabbages, onions, corn. The sweet smell of manure wafted in through the windows of the car. My mother and I yelled “Pew!” but there was a sweet quality to the smell, a tender green kind of smell that told us here was life, here was cycle of sustenance. Long drives through farmers’ fields show us that our food is prepared with love, that we are connected to our food and the soil that yields it. Farmlands are a different kind of home, more simple, more tangible, and certainly more real. We turned onto Gonna Crash hill and performed the necessary ritual, squealing with glee and then slowing the car, my dad making the left hand turn and unstopping the gate. We pulled in slowly in case there were any deer. We were the first ones there. Out of the car we piled, we three. My dad set up came and I wandered off to my tree, where I could still hear voices, so I knew when to turn around and come back in to greet the rest of our family.
The clearing in the woods filled with cars and Bob was beside himself with joy. He was a little bit drunk of course, dancing without music in this gray tarry cloth shorts, but since this was a celebration nobody seemed to mind. In fact, before long, Greg and Doug had caught right up to him. Everyone was happy that day. I played with all of my cousins for the first time. Diana and Gil got along and Clif even cracked some jokes. The men were drunk and happy. Aunt Jackie was luminous in her yoga pants and bandana. We turned over every rock looking for crayfish. Aunt Jackie’s son, Colin, ever a troublemaker got pinched while he was poking one with a stick.
A short story about about family camping trips and special places.
by Liz Richards (writer)
We laughed and played and explored all week long. There were pockets in the wood and creek that I had never known about, special secret places that I discovered with my cousins. The sun was bright and hot that week, the creek felt like bathwater, so we all piled into the deep zone for bath time with our bathing suits on, splashing one another and dunking each other and skipping stones. I never could get the spin just right. Every stone I skipped had more of a plop, hitting the surface with a heavy blow and sinking down to the bottom instantaneously. But I gave it my all.
There was no judgment that week, no anger. My dad was so happy to be surrounded by his entire family. Really, we all were. The land transformed us into a family. There was a magic in Meadowbrook that helped us to completely suspend our reservations, our fears, our real lives and everything that we were supposed to be in the outside world. Maybe it was escapism, just the simple gift of being apart from society in our own little tightly knit community of genes, all in one place for the first time. But I really don’t think that it was quite that simple. It wasn’t as though we were pretending that our lives outside did not exist, or that we were hiding from any of our insecurities or the stigmas of what were supposed to be.
We were stronger when we were climbing trees. Each of us had a stronger sense of direction when we got lost in the woods and had to find our way back to camp. Looking back, the creek water was not the cleanest, but swimming and bathing in the creek, we came out purified, cleaner than we had ever been. There was magic in Meadowbrook. We all felt it. No matter who we were or what our lives brought us out there in the world, within those thirteen acres we were better, and we were totally free to be ourselves.