We still call it that, the group of us, huddled under the warmth of what we believed it to be. What we knew it to be. It was quiet, green and rested, part of it a century old, the other part built close to it’s wise bones, newer, but integral.
We would have driven up its lane way for the first time, maple danced sun and poison ivy I would later use to mark myself home from school. We would have seen its white sides and black shutters and walked through the front door; did we know then what it would mean? How dropping our shoes and coats and shoulders would be the sensation I would chase for the rest of my littered life?
I grew there wild, tamed by my own rhythms, led home by lamps on the porch and cats balanced slack on wooden fences. I was lonely, vigilant, and worried, all the while filled with the prose of sky scarred sunsets and frog singing grass. I lived true, alone, silent.
That house held my most goodbyes, the sounds of car doors, gravel and descending engines, the choking wordless days of one less person after another not living there.
I went alone when I returned. I didn’t drive all the way up to the door, secluded as it is, there was no passing by. It was enough to stop at the end of the lane, get out of the car and wish myself small for one more moment, eyes closed against the ache of it.
I laid the stone in my hand behind an old maple tree, the first one I reached, remembering the last time I saw my dad, reminiscing about a very young me, packing a small suitcase and running away from home. I walked to the end of the lane way, waiting until someone would miss me, somehow understanding, alone by the road, it was up to me to make my way back.
My dad, leaning sweetly into the end of his life, said how I looked so forlorn at the end of the lane with that suitcase, packed with what I remembered to be stuffed animals.
‘How did you know what I looked like?’ I asked him.
‘Because I followed you and hid behind every tree.’
So I hid that stone behind one of those trees, and picked up the word that was waiting for me, all those years later.