Stairs. Ever since I was a little kid I have been intrigued by stairs. Where do they lead? What’s up there (or down there?) It is the mystery of the unknown that piques my curiosity. On our recent trip to Fort Casey, we discovered a part of the fort separate from the state park. Overgrown and abandoned, it was as close I will ever come to finding a lost civilization.
I love to walk up the wide steps and think about the people who built this place. Fort Casey was constructed in the late 1800’s to defend the entrance to Puget Sound in case of enemy invasion. Now we know the fort was never called into action, and it ended up being used as a training facility for the armed forces. I close my eyes and picture fresh faced young men, enlisted and ready to fight for their country, running up and down these concrete steps. Did they practice their drills and wonder if they would have to man the giant guns aimed out to sea? I can only imagine.
Another thing I think of as I run my hand across the moss and weathered concrete is Mother Nature. The blackberry and wild rose vines reach across the expanse of man made materials making it clear that she will reclaim her own, given time. We humans aren’t always as mindful as we should be of her many gifts, and I find comfort in the brambles. Even as they tug on my coat sleeve as I pass, they remind me that our beautiful Earth will endure.
Cousins are our first best friends. The instant playmates from birth through childhood, and beyond, if we are lucky. I remember so many good times shared with my cousins when we were young. Meeting up at Grandma’s farm, we built go-carts from apple boxes and made tunnels of hay in the barn. We rode our bikes like maniacs along the river road and luckily survived without ever toppling into the current. How Grandma wrangled the six of us without losing her sanity is a testament to her Norwegian fortitude for sure. No matter our escapade, she’d chuckle and send us back outside to play. Dirt was good, added to our immunities, she said, and hay dust, though it made us sneeze, caused no lasting damage to our developing lungs. She loaded us all in her big boat of a car and drove us into town to shop at the five and dime and fed us burgers and fries at King Charlie’s on the way back home. Siblings and cousins forever!
My dad and his brother grew up with a big, rambling group of cousins, all meeting, yes, you guessed it… at their grandma’s house. He lights up when he talks about Sunday afternoon baseball games in the field beyond the house and potluck meals spread on tables made of wide boards cut at the small sawmill they operated on Meadow Lake. There is a picture of all the black sedans parked in the driveway. I can almost hear the ring of the horseshoe clanging on the iron stake as the men hoisted them in the air. In winter, when the lake froze over, they strapped on skates from the wooden box under the stairs and raced each other from shore to shore. Dad said his grandpa fashioned skis from a couple of planks and the cousins took turns skiing through the orchard. I have enjoyed those stories so much, they have become my own and I am lonesome for the times gathered in that cozy kitchen around the warmth of the old cookstove. My great-grandma’s place was next to the stove, beside the window. She had hair to her waist that was always braided and wrapped around her head or in a bun at the back of her neck. She was short and round and always wore an apron. (Sounds a little like someone else I know!) I have her chair in my house now, I love having that connection to her and to those good old days.
Time has that crazy way of marching on and now my kids have kids, which winds us back around to cousins!
Six busy kids making their own memories together as they grow up. Will they remember dragging my collection of bottles and jars out to the picnic table to make potions? I can’t forget Jamie Todd running in the house for some necessary supply, I asked what they were doing, he answered, “Searching for the antidote!” Pumpkinfest and Cooky Day, extra holidays they enjoy every year, I hope storing up good times in their hearts to draw on down the road. Part of the job description when I signed on as ‘Grammie’, was to provide a place to just be, whether it was to build a fort under the table or play cards around it. Now the older five are teens or close to it. They hang out on the tire swing or sit around the picnic table, talking about life and friends and school (or the lack there of) but there they are, together. I love it.
As kids, the years that separated my cousin Lisa and I kept us from being playmates, but there’s another funny thing about time~ it’s a great equalizer. Now it’s almost like we are the same age and the stories she heard from her mom match those my dad has told me and we are connected, heart to heart. We might not have enjoyed a shared childhood, but we make up for it as adults. We look through the old photo albums, connecting the dots that create a picture of our sprawling, extended family. We have the same Norwegian immigrant great-grandparents, and the same love of the old home place. Kindred cousins for sure.
“There is one thing that is right and true in this world, Family. To watch where we’re going, To know where we’ve been, and to be with us in the end, for comfort and to carry on.” *LRVW