Lenox, Massachusetts This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 10, 2012
I’m driving through the towns of my childhood summers after a college visit. Dad sits in the passenger seat, his body tense against the unpredictability of my hands and feet, the only appendages between us and the sweet hereafter. Mom and Stephie are in the back, straining to peer over my shoulder at same scenes remembered differently. One town is filled with Saabs and Volvos, a summer retreat for the Upper West Side crowd. The next exudes the dilapidated charm of a communal soul that seeks its sustenance not from green bills but from the green hills that pulse the life-beat of this Berkshire clime.

Climb we do – up the faux-mountains and down again. I gain momentum from

the downward turns and hit the hills at lightning speed. Well, fast enough at least for Mom to murmur, “You’re not giving us much confidence, Patrick.” But these hills know nothing of confidence nor lack thereof, only a tacit, self-accepting willingness to simply exist.

I have often thought of these marvelous, mellow mountains during forays through Wordsworth’s “lonely rooms” and “hours of weakness,” but also when reckless and feckless abandon purges my heart of desire for experience, success, concern. It is then that I yearn for those carefree days of shared adventure, when I ran through the woods. Down the sloping dirt road I ran, its ruts echoing in reverberation with the creak of horse-drawn carriages, past the sentry house and stables, over the thirsty brook, to Edith Wharton’s old mansion, The Mount.

I bounded through the evenings with other children of actors, directors, stage managers. Playing kickball and Frisbee, swimming and fishing in the pond behind our ramshackle boarding house were all reserved for daylight. But the magic dwelt in dusk, slipping into the air as I slipped down to the old white mansion, with its huge, open, wrought-iron gate and high garden walls. The white marble chips of the driveway beneath our feet and the smell of hot chocolate wafting through the air instilled in us a quiet reverence for a magic we could not quite comprehend: the magic of music and dancing, of song and age-old verse.

The set was woven with trees – hardwood and conifer – and I often wandered its warm wooden platforms and hidden backstage dugouts alone. The stage grew out of the fragrant earth, re-animated fecundity, so it was only natural when an actor materialized from the dark forest to add further life to its vibrant, quiescent aura. And so one drifted out upon the sacred Shakespearean stage to the music riding the cool summer breeze. This was no ordinary melody, enveloping the audience members reclining in their lawn chairs with haunting winds and mystical chimes. The harmonies rang clear through the night, and as from a dream, the lost sailor emerged from soupy blackness.

Such were those days, standing on the edge of Edith Wharton’s balcony, gazing over the enraptured audience to see my father and friends speaking a foreign, yet familiar, tongue. But what of this do I now see, driving past childhood memories with my father beside and mother and sister behind me?

“Turn in here,” he says, as they peer eagerly at same scenes remembered differently. We pull into the long dirt driveway that runs past the sentry house, stables and brook, a mile down to the main stage. But it is changed. Ahead, the ruts are widened. They gape open, swallowing airy dreams of past adventures. The road is closed. The theater company has moved.

“Okay, turn around,” says Dad.

“Why don’t we park here and walk down to the mansion?” I offer.

But Dad replies, “No, Patrick, turn around. We’ll go see how the new location is coming. Let’s go.”

I want to scream, Don’t you understand? We’re not here to see the new location. We’re here to revisit old memories, to suck in the air of fond remembrance in one deep breath and never let it out. We’ll park here and walk down!

But I don’t. I have a sinking feeling that the gulp of enchanted air will not be as sweet or eternal as I envision. Reluctantly, I turn the car around, and push the soundtrack of “Twelfth Night” into the cassette player.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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