|Posted: December 9, 2011|
|My life took an unexpected turn in the months after my mother passed away. Life was no longer carefree. There was work to be done. My dad couldn’t run this place by himself. I was only fifteen but already I knew a lot about running a farm. I took over the financial part as best I could, with the help of my aunt, my dad’s sister. She made sure I was keeping things in order and taught me things I still needed to learn. Still, she could only do so much. She had her own family and farm to run. Lucky for us both, I am a fast learner. Every day, things got a little easier.
Dad, on the other hand, was taking Mother’s death hard. He never smiled anymore. He worked all the time. He never went anywhere or did anything other than farm related stuff. I tried to get him to join in at the Town Center. There was always something going on there, social gatherings, dances, auctions. It was a time for the townspeople to get together and catch up with each other. Dad would take me and drop me off but he would not stay himself. When I asked him about it, he just said it was too soon. That made since at first but soon, the months turned into a year and the year turned into two. Still, he would not participate. He kept to himself and stayed home more often than not. I did not push the issue and let him be. It made me sad though. He was once so full of life and joy. Now he was a shell of his former self. I just didn’t know what to do.
* * *
It was a week from my eighteenth birthday. I was a senior in high school and would be graduating soon. I had college lined up. Soon I would be leaving home. This worried me. I hated the thought of leaving my dad by himself. I began to wonder if he would ever come out of his slump. Mother’s death was hard on everyone. I remember crying myself to sleep every day for the first year. Then came the one year anniversary of her death. We all visited her grave with balloons and flowers of her favorite color and kind. That evening, as I lay in bed, I realized I had survived the first year without her. I knew then that I would be alright. If I could survive this, I could survive anything. Besides, Mother would not want me to grieve for her too long. I had a life to live and soon I’d be on my own. My memories of her gave me strength. All of our talks stuck in my head and I would use her advice when I needed it.
The day came when I was ready to head off to college. This was my last day in my small town. Tomorrow I was headed for the big city. I spent the morning with Dad, reminiscing about days long past. I even managed to get him to crack a small smile as we remembered something funny that happened with Mother. It didn’t last though. The smile quickly disappeared and he said that was then and this was now. I hugged him tight and told him to find his way back. Mother would not want to see him in this state. For the first time since the day she died, he hugged me back and it felt like old times. I would never forget that moment.
The rest of the day, I spent with my best friend Josie. She was going to college too, but not the same one as me. We made promises to write and call. We swore we’d always be best friends. It was the best day ever.
I came home in time for supper. Dad made my favorite meal, fried chicken and all the fixings. I was going to miss these home cooked meals. After dinner, I suddenly felt the urge to visit the woods once more. I hadn’t been there as often since Mother died. Now I wasn’t sure when I would ever get back there. I decided to take my pack, just in case I spent the night at my old tree house.
I entered the forest and made my way to my fort. Once I got there, I laughed at how small it seemed now. “It looked so much bigger then.” I said to myself. I noticed how warm it was. It was the end of August and this would surely be the last of the summer nights. Fall was just around the corner and for the first time since I could remember, I would not see the leaves change. There was no forest where I was going, only tall buildings and concrete. There were no open fields full of wildflowers that smelled so sweet in the spring. I was going to miss nature. I was going to miss my forest.
A little further on I came to the edge of the pond. The warm evening breeze tried to talk me into a quick dip in the cool water. I took off my shoes and waded in. “You’re not going to convince me to go in any further this time.” I said to the empty air. I walked over to a large rock and sat down, keeping my feet in the water. The sun was just beginning to set. Light was fading fast. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned, I saw a big deer, a buck, a male. He stood tall but cautious by the water’s edge on the opposite side of the pond. I stayed very still as I watched him from the rock. His eyes scanned the area and then he looked back to the bushes behind him. Out walked a doe (a female) and two little ones. They were half-grown and just about to lose their white spots. The dad looked so proud of his family. He stood watch as the mother and babies took a drink from the pond. It was at that moment that he spied me sitting across the way. His tail began to wag as he sensed danger. Then, our eyes locked and he seemed to relax a bit. I thought I recognized his eyes. Could this be the injured fawn from so long ago? I looked at his hind leg and could faintly see a discoloration where a scar might be. It was him, the same one. He had survived all these years. No hunters had ever made him their prize. Now he had his own family to protect. We stared at each other with the understanding of who the other one was. I think we were both surprised to see that the other one was still around after all this time. I glanced to his family once more then back to the buck, nodding my approval. “You have done well.” I whispered. He merely blinked and looked at me with those big brown eyes as if to say thank you. Finally, when his family was done drinking, he went back to them and led them back into the bushes. At least that part of my past seemed real. He was indeed the injured fawn I had seen that day.
I decided to stay at my tree house and headed back before it got too dark. I climbed up and made my makeshift bed for the night. There was a hole in the roof where I could look up and see the stars. I imagined my mother up there, looking down at me and smiling. I was going to make her proud of me. I was going to go off, get an education, graduate, and get a good job. Maybe one day I’d meet Mister Right and begin my own family. Then we would move back here, to this land. I eventually wanted my own children to grow up in this place. I would teach them about the animals and the trees, everything Mother taught me. It all seemed so perfect, like there was no other choice for me to make. I went to sleep with these thoughts in my head and dreamed of my future. While I slept, I could have sworn I heard a familiar voice. It told me that my mother was proud of me now and would be, no matter what life I chose. It said that she would always watch over me, that she was never too far, as long as I kept her in my heart. The words spoken by a male seemed so real, as if they were being whispered in my ear. I smiled and thanked the detached voice before falling into a deep dreamless sleep.
I awoke the next day newly refreshed. Today I was leaving my country home. Today, anything was possible. My future was laid out before me, just waiting for me to grab it with both hands and make it mine. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. As I finished packing away my stuff, I noticed a little white flower lying on the floor of the tree house. It was a white daisy with a yellow middle. I had seen these by the pond earlier. I ran to the window and looked towards the pond. Nothing. I couldn’t understand how the daisy got up here. I know I didn’t pick it. Did it get caught in my clothing somehow and end up here? It was very strange and it plagued my mind the rest of the day. Deep in the back of my mind, I wondered if it was… No, it could not have been him. He wasn’t even real, was he?
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