I've always loved the drive to my parent's house. Several towering magnolias and rows of pansies adorn the front of the neighborhood. The first houses on either side have very large yards. One field has always had horses, and now the other one has Shetland ponies. Every time we turn in the kids get excited about the horses and want to see if they are out in the big field. Occasionally we will be treated to something like a flock of turkeys crossing the road, horses neighing hello over the side of the fence, or some version of nature singing. I'm thinking of one tree in particular that blooms gorgeous pink tufts of flowers in the spring. As the years have passed I will nod approval or a nose wrinkle to the changes in houses and landscape.
My parent's house is at the bottom of a steep hill. One that was great for sledding as a kid (the few times we had snow). The first time I saw the house, when I was ten, I thought it looked like a hotel. Maybe it was the large wall of stone that reminded me of a lodge or something. It also had a small island in the middle of the driveway with a tree and plants. I spent so many days pretending that I was stranded on that island or that our bikes were boats. One year I invented this game where I would wheel my brother around in a wheelbarrow for a pretend safari. The backyard was equally magical with a small forest that is straight uphill so it seemed to go on forever. In the right season with a certain amount of rain we had a creek with tiny waterfalls that, back then, seemed like a river of possibilities.
These days though the house doesn't hold any of that magic for me. It's outdated really, the island was paved over, and the house is an epic mess, and I've long ago stopped caring about the woods and creek. Though my family still provides constant entertainment. One day I walked in and looked everywhere for my mom. Her car was outside so I knew she had to be somewhere, but the house has a lot of rooms and places to hide (even unintentionally). So after searching I stood there stumped until something caught my eye in my peripheral vision... my mom. I could see through the window to a lower part of the the roof. She was on her stomach, in her pajamas, red hair askew, holding a rifle-type of gun out in front of her and squinting with one eye. She was blazing mad at a woodpecker that was ruining her sleep.
I visit my parent's house with a strange mix of disenchantment, humor, and comfort. Sometimes I'm so in the mood for a cup of their coffee with almond cream and the newest issue of People (the two things that are predictable about their house). Sometimes the mess irritates me and all of the magic about that house is gone. Then on days like today the magic comes back.
My kids came home a few weeks ago excited and breathless about this new find in our neighborhood. They found a creek "somewhere near the back of our house" is what they said. When I first heard about it I felt this giddy happy feeling both because I was happy they are playing outside and because I remember my adventures in my parent's yard as a kid. I realized after a few days I should visit this place myself since, come to think of it, I had no idea where a creek would be near us. Well, it turns out my children were using a vast amount of imagination as the "creek" was a nice and expensive landscaping option next to a good-looking house a street in back of us. I was horrified to find Ben scraping the once clean spaces between the smooth, large rocks with a large stick. Ahem. So on our day off school today I took them to the place I knew they could wander and pretend. A place they could play with sticks in a real creek. It's funny the things that bond us, and funny the happiness nostalgia sometimes holds. Today I took a little trip back in time. I'm glad I can share with my kids a place I once loved to play and let their imaginations run wild.