My paternal grandparents lived in a small town on the north side of my island.
Seven miles away.
We went there a lot when we were kids. Especially in the summer.
They lived in a white, two-story house.
Despite my grandfather’s wizardry with wooodworking, the floors in the back of the house — both stories — sloped. A lot. I always figured that he thought it gave the place character. He seemed like the kind of guy who would feel that way.
If you walked out the back door, and followed the path, you’d find yourself in a small orchard.
We often did.
There were a bunch of apple trees.
Sour apples were their specialty.
My grandfather turned them into cider. We’d sneak into a basement that appeared to be carved out of rock, to steal some.
Raspberries and blackberries fought for space and water and sun in the orchard.
Small animals dashed to and fro.
Small kids hid and sought.
It was a truly wonderful place.
If you walked through the orchard, you came out in a little clearing overlooking the most charming of harbours. Blue Atlantic water. An island with untouched evergreens. Boats of every type moored and bobbing and spinning.
We’d skip rocks down on the shore.
In wet sneakers.
With smiles almost hurting sunfreckled faces.
We’d have rock-throwing contests.
For a while.
However we’d always find our way back to the orchard.
Because on the best branch, on the best tree, in the best spot, there lived a tire swing.
To adult eyes it was just an old tire. Probably off some truck rusting behind my uncle’s garage.
To us it was a magical transportation device.
It was hanging on a thick piece of rope. A rope that, I imagined, had a previous gig on some ancient sea-going vessel. It had stories to tell, I was sure, but secrets to keep.
If you were the first person to get to the tire swing after a rain, you had the unenviable task of rocking it back and forth to get all the water out of the bottom of it.
You always got wet.
But then it was ready.
You climbed in.
And your cousins waited.
Cousins with missing teeth and mischievous grins.
Cousins who have drifted apart, but not too far.
Cousins who, as I write this, are now the parents and the caregivers.
Cousins who would grab the tire and spin it.
And spin it.
Building up what we’d later learn is potential energy.
And then they’d let go.
The kaleidoscope of nature would begin.
You’d open your eyes wide and see it all.
The steeple on the ornate church.
The old house.
The lovers walking hand in hand down the road with grass growing up through cracks in asphalt.
You’d close your eyes and hear it all.
The children laughing.
The tree creaking.
The rope straining.
It would seem to last forever.
And then it would stop.
You’d fall out of the tire, laughing too hard to stand up.
You’d tell everyone it was somuchfun.
You’d wait, with surprising patience, for your next turn.
I miss that orchard sometimes, you know?
I miss that tire swing.
I miss the sights and sounds.
But those feelings of exhilaration and possibility and of being wonderfully, perfectly off-balance?
You bring those back to me every day.