I awoke snuggled into the sister-shared
warmth of the big bed, one of three
four-posters in a row facing three others
across the plain dormered attic room.
Bare pine walls gave off a faintly musty,
arborial smell, vintage cottage. Aware
of my need to pee, and relieved early
daylight showed through the single
window at each end of that dormitory,
I slipped out of bed and into shoes
waiting on the planked floor.
I tiptoed across to the hanging stairs,
wincing at the floorboard creaks, crept
down the steps and out the back door,
hurrying to the outhouse with its fearsome
seat open to the fowl-smelling dungeon-pit
far below. Cautiously I relieved myself amid
a swirl of black horseflies and the perpetual
stink. Quickly retraced my steps.
Re-entering the simple frame abode, I saw
Grandmother at work in the kitchen setting out
cereal boxes, spoons, bowls, and a bottle of milk.
A cast-iron hand pump awaited the dish-washing.
After breakfast, I followed my brother, sister
and cousins down the sandy hill to the lake,
climbed into a wooden rowboat tethered to
the rickety pier, and we cast off for a morning
explore along the scruffy, unkempt shore.
Past cottage piers, past the tiny store and
public beach, we finally rowed to a cattail
marsh. Water-lily pads covered the surface,
our oars swishing through the forest of stems.
Dragonflies swooped overhead and crickets
droned under a hot sun. A couple horses
grazing near shore huffled and shook their
heads before galloping away as we drew up
to land our boat.
Clambering out, then pulling all together
on the thick rope to get our craft safely up
onto the grassy bank, we headed uphill to
collect acorns and buckeyes under the shade
of waffling oak and locust leaves. Lunch
was bologna sandwiches and kool-aid
under the trees. And homemade sugar cookies.
Rowing home in turns, leaving time for
an afternoon swim, then fishing off the pier
in late light until we heard, Come up now
for supper, children, we shared that grand
day of play that ended with big scoops
of vanilla ice cream kept cool in dry ice,
tossed at dusk into the lake to fog and hiss
in the night mist with satisfying mystery.
first published in Northern Stars Magazine
also published in Poetry Atlas
©2013 Bonnie Manion