It’s an early spring day in the heartland.
Anemic, damp and miserable.
Clumps of stubborn snow and ice,
grey and grimy,
still dot the sidewalks and lawns.
Faces look pale and anxious for sun.
After the usual sermon of incense and absolution,
followed by stacks of pancakes and sausages,
we know something is up
when Dad drives past our neighborhood,
further and further from home.
by unfamiliar faces and unfamiliar towns,
until backseat boredom’s about to grow horns.
Passing a tiny town,
and a solid white, storybook farm,
Dad finally slows and signals a turn.
“Shoreacres Country Club, Members Only.”,
reads the uninviting sign.
Swallowed by the dark of the woods,
the wide, low wagon drifts silently down the road,
flanked by a small, trickling brook,
winding past towering trees
and long stretches of green.
Everything is covered in a fine, frigid gloom,
including another set of pretty, white buildings
silent and still on this dreary afternoon.
Passing a faded, old, green water tower,
headless and frightening in the fog,
our destination is finally divulged:
a new home.
I sink further into the wagon’s rear seat,
where the unfriendly neighborhood disappears
and I can see nothing but the thick, dark clouds.
The silence is broken only by the sound of gravel
crunching beneath the wheels of the wagon,
now weighted with disappointment.
We twist down a long driveway and stop.
So inching my way back up,
I survey at the house.
It’s dark and sullen.
Like the day.
And my mood.
Dad says, “We’ll just take a peek.”
But even I know what that means.
So, like prisoners into an exercise yard,
we file from the car,
and stand in an unhappy cluster in front of the house –
which isn’t yellow –
Which has no sign of neighbors,
the Good Humor Man,
or a new treehouse –
We’re coaxed to a long row of windows
which look through the cold, empty rooms,
where lies a huge expanse of lawn.
Racing to the rear of the house,
we stand the edge of the bluff,
looking out over the grand, Great Lake
right there at our toes.
The Windy City silhouette, 40 miles south.
Excitement now erupts for this strange, new place.
This decades-long breeder of unsupervised fun.
And, of course, first bongs.
Secret rendezvous for teenage loves.
Havens for fainthearted runaways
who soon long for home just a few feet away.
Follies of youth are such glorious days.
Until this world begins to erode.
And all begin to scatter.
But, oh, what fertile earth it was
living life in the woods at the edge of the bluff.