I remember as a young child taking trips up to my grandparent’s farm. I remember every turn in the roads we took. I remember the place where my mom pointed across a field then into some woods. ‘There’s a castle back there’ She would say ’ Your uncles and I used to hike back there for the day and play in it.’
I remember the first time I drove to my grandparents alone in the car. I was 17 or so. I remember very vividly imagining this castle. Would it be like the ruins that cover the countryside in Ireland? Not that I had ever seen those in person. Just in the BBC and masterpiece theatre series my mom used to watch every Sunday night in the small living room of the end row home that I lived in until I was 8. I remember sitting on the floor and the opening shots of the cartoon people wailing on the tops of a cartoon estate. Masterpiece mystery. I always thought my mom was watching a movie about the board game Clue.
Apparently the castle is no longer there. In the 40 years since my mom played on it, the owners apparently had it deconstructed, or at least what was left. I remember how unbearably sad I became when I thought about that. Castle don’t exist in my grandparent’s back yard. But for the gang of boisterous and curious grandkids that we were, they did. Castles, and trolls that lived under fallen trees and big rocks. Trolls that stomped through the woods at night knocking down more trees and collecting frogs as their minions. My grandfather still wears the faded jeans and fisherman’s sweaters when he emerges from his office on their farm, that he did when supervising our ruckus as children.
Now, very infrequently, I get to go up to the farm, the same familiar roads. The garden has lost it’s tameness since my grandmother stopped working in it. It’s wild, and only restricted by the lawn mower. My grandfather and I last sat in the chairs overlooking the west side of the farm and we talked about my attempts to write poetry. A passion for him, and a talent having not only read his poetry but published it. He lets me read his poems. I get wrapped up in nostalgia, in the stores he has layered in neat stanzas. He makes me read mine aloud, and suggests changes, removals and substitutes.
The lawn still sweeps down to the woods. As I grew up, I learned that native indians were more common then knights. That these woods, and the landscape belonged to no one. Nature stood on it’s own. I think about how the earth ages, and how my parents aged. How Pop Pop aged. His stories.
How he met my grandmother, in an acting class. How he went to Penn State part time and worked as a lifeguard at the Jersey Shore. He tells me stories about how stubborn my mother was, especially when it came to her passion for riding horses. She would fall, get bucked or get trampled and stand up even more determined. How she used to beat up the boys who used to beat up her younger brother.
He gives me books to read. Classics, books of poems. He jokes with me about dating. He’s quick witted. He can charm anyone, especially my friends.
A lot of things about my past have made me realize what I want in the future. Made me realize a very important thing. If I can’t introduce you to my family, my mother, or my grandfather, and know that you will keep up with the gentle ribbing, the wit and snark, then I don’t think I will ever fall in love with you. If I can’t sit down and tell you about castles, aging, and my childhood then I don’t think I could really ever love you.
I, like my father, and my grandfathers am a story teller. I take pleasure in being able to ensnare an audience with my words, and have an exchange afterwards or during.
It makes me realize what stories I have collected and gathered and how they will be passed down, and it makes me think about the kind of woman I am now, and how that will effect the kind of woman I am in 40 years.
**Rough writing, when I basically write what comes to mind, almost exactly. With no editing. Extremely raw and rough.