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The House by The River This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Annapolis, MD
The car smelled of suntan lotion and sea salt, and our skin glowed with the fresh feel of summer, browned from a week at the beach. My eyes followed the roadside as we carved through Mt. Vernon, the sky setting a sweeping backdrop in hues the color of fresh lemons and oranges. The sun slipped below the horizon lazily; a toddler in need of a nap. Memories filled the car, mixing with our candy coated breath, reeling us back to our pasts. Laughter spilled into the car and out the open windows as we talked about the time we sunk the golf cart in quicksand, fell off that old wooden dock, and snuck around the kitchen to steal dough from my grandmother’s famous pot pie. This was the place that assembled me, like missing pieces that needed bringing together.

When we rolled on to Pruitt Lane, the familiar feel of gravel crunching under the tires met our whoops and whistles. Rejoicing in our return, the trees danced in the breeze, bringing back hundreds of memories from the eager flip-flop clad girl that embodied my childhood. The smell of the place wrapped itself around me, taking me to another time, a different me. I recalled waking up early to sunlight streaming through the windows. Temporarily forgetting where I was, I sat up in bed and looked around. “You’re home” a voice in my head seemed to say; a place where you’re the happiest you’ll ever be. That same contended glee found me now, enveloping me in the magic of this place. It possessed the ability to make me forget about everything else and enjoy what was in front of me. It taught me the value of family and a million other life lessons.

I remember it all: from the silly moments to the meaningful ones. Running across the dock when we visited in the barefoot months resulted in splinters and scrapes which we proudly brought home to show our parents. My grandfather rested a hand on his chin and told us “It’ll be better by the time you get married,” and my grandmother grabbed a Yohoo from the refrigerator, hoping to ease our pain in the best way grandmothers know how. When I crashed the golf cart into a bench, my grandfather chuckled and my cousins screamed. Going “into town” was always an occasion, and we made frequent trips to see the local waterman, my grandmother dragging me along in hopes to introduce me to the cute local boy that was his grandson. On quiet mornings, we wandered into the bamboo and tried to build rafts to sail away on, our minds occupied with far off destinations like Hawaii and the Bahamas. Here, there were places to get lost, stories to hear, and trouble to raise. My better self lived here: a product of the summertime, with hair so blonde it was almost white and tanlines that matched my favorite swimsuits. It was here that I learned that being the oldest carried a certain weight to it; I needed to look out for my younger cousins and siblings. Family held an important role in my life, and being here made me appreciate what I had. Tradition was big here as well: after most dinners my grandfather would produce a deck of playing cards in tandem with a cup of quarters. Years of practice earned me a perfect poker face, card smarts, and a small fortune in quarters. “Don’t give yourself away, Katie Bell. A good poker face is worth its weight in gold.” My childhood was filled with my grandfather’s stories: some factual, others so realistic that you could only tell it wasn’t the truth by the gleam in his eye. A fascination with the waves, freedom to explore, and proximity to the river fueled my love for the water from an early age. I can still hear myself pressing an empty water bottle to my ear and swearing up and down that I could hear the ocean, then handing it over to my aunt to see if she agreed. I attained one too many bruises on barnacle-covered rocks that surrounded the sand, a barrier between myself and the river.

Everything on that property feels like it occupies a small part of me: from the river to the tapestries that hang throughout the house, reading things like “Heaven is a little closer in a house beside the water” and the hallway posters that haven’t been changed for as long as I can remember. Even the old wing, which remains untouched most days, serves as a reminder of earlier days and honest beginnings. Pieces of me can be found all over the house, and when I leave here, I take some of them with me. This was the place where I discovered myself, the place that helped me realize the importance of family, and the place that made some of my best memories. I found myself here, and every time I come back lost, Pruitt Lane never fails to find me.



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linnoxfawn said...
Oct. 22, 2013 at 7:47 pm
Just reading this made me feel happy and reminded me of my own childhood memories :) Beautiful piece.
 
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