We had 8 acres of land around my original family home. Part of it lead to the end of a tree line that sat upon the marsh near a small river called the North River. It was such an adventure to walk this trail and others around our property. My father would take my brother and I back along these trails to see the river and around the property to a small body of water in front of the house that can really only be described as a thicket. I love that house and plot of land to this day. Truly a great place to grow up.
My father and my attitude (specifically my anxieties and fears about all things great and small) toward these nature walks did not always mesh. One walk actually lead us through a long grassy field on the outskirts of the side of the house. It was a sprawling space adjacent to my bedroom window filled with long, blonde grass. As we walked, we found an old, worn clear bottle — an antique liquor bottle. Now I was terrified. People were out there. Was I safe in my bedroom with these “people” outside my window at night? Every night from there on out, I stared at the windows, waiting to see the heads of the people that I knew would pop up from out in the woods. I only told my mother of my fears of the “people” popping up outside my window a few weeks ago.
Mom also loved the grounds around our home, too. We picked pussywillows, greens and acorns for all sorts of activities. At the age of 4 or 5, along our loooong driveway (.4 miles), I would walk as a child with my mom or grandmother carrying a tiny bucket on a string attached to a branch. I would pretend to “fish” in the rain puddles along the long driveway with my silly, makeshift bucket. Sometimes we would see birds or rabbits. Other times, we would pick up acorns and other small items that fell from the different trees.
As I grew up and walked from the bus stop, I remember clearly how it smelled during each of the seasons. The smell of Fall and Spring are still very memorable to me. If I get a whiff today of those same delicate, yet pungent odors, it takes me right back to our driveway. I loved looking up and seeing the canopy of tree leaves overhead, or how the snow hung on the branches, a winter wonderland. I also remember looking behind me to make sure no one was walking up the driveway from the main road. I was always afraid a vagrant would venture down the long driveway looking for food or a place to sleep. I guess I was always filled with great anxiety.
At least during my first grade year, my Mom harbored anxiety, too. Our neighbor, and the older brother of my friend, walked me up the driveway so I arrived home to my grandmother safe. His older brother would come terrorize us on his bike before heading out on his paper route, zooming up and down the driveway, weaving towards us and away and cutting it way too close for this petite first grader. Meanwhile, my walking companion could do the coolest thing, or so I thought at the time. He could flip one of textbooks end over end in the air and catch it after one or two full revolutions. We mostly walked in silence. I did not know what to say to this older boy. He did not know what to say to this little girl. I believe he was paid a small sum for his service. Then home he would walk all the way back down the long driveway to his home to the left of our driveway.
A long, low New England rock wall ran the full length of our driveway and almost all the way to river end of the property. Like something out of a Robert Frost poem, the wall divided the two lots, ours and the one to the right. The home next to us, situated at the end of our driveway, right on the main road, owned the land behind it that once held a field full of sheep. On hot summer days when the river’s wind did not reach the house, the ground still smelled like sheep or whatever they may have left behind years and years ago.
Carrying the rock aesthetic through the rest of the property, my father built a park behind the house with small rock-fill to create walkways to two different sitting areas with cement benches at the end of each of the paths. In the center was bark mulch and shrubs, flowers and coniferous trees. This sort of organized the area directly behind the house. Otherwise, it was just land, land and more land. Beyond the park area was the hand-made swing set, the sandbox and the shed which held the tools that made all the previously mentioned structures. It was always great to swing and look up at the clouds in the sky. My brother and I learned to play baseball and wiffleball in front of that shed. The shed was the catcher! As the years went by and my brother became better at the game he still loves today, we began using the land beyond the swingset and shed as a baseball park. Our own little field of dreams.
I hope to write more about this amazing place where I grew up, as the stories come to me. There are so many great memories of that home, so many I cannot even count. I guess because it is nearing my birthday that I am feeling quite nostalgic. It is nice to look back at my past and smile.