The reeds swayed in the gentle wind and the morning sun reflected off the water behind them. It was a calm morning, with dew on the blades of grass that left a pleasant scent in the air. It smelled like home, a home I rarely return to.
I remember the last time I was here with the breeze dancing by my ears. My little sister had been here, her big brown eyes wide with wonder and curiosity. Her little curls bounced as she dashed from flower to flower. She loved pulling the seeds off the reeds and blowing them into the wind. The ducks scared her as much as she did them. We always brought breadcrumbs anyway. With our ankles submerged we would bravely toss chunks of bread into the water, then ran as half of them came for the loaf in our hands.
I remember her half-suppressed smile as she unknowingly walked to her own doom. Graves should never be that small, or have stories so warped.
I remember the first time I was here, when I was barely old enough to splash in the waves myself. Those days were naive and fun. I would chase grasshoppers, butterflies, and dragonflies. I even found a few frogs here and there. The lake had seemed endless then.
I remember bringing my first love here. We always thought we’d be our first and last. We knew the thorns of the roses. We knew some things spoiled with time. We thought we were invincible. Only I could ever see the growing mountain between us. I kept crossing it for her. I thought I always would, that I was invincible. I remember kissing her under the old oak tree, chasing the same frogs, and laughing as we splashed each other in the lake. No relationship is ever easy, but most are worth the pain. But some mountains cannot be crossed for others. I will always miss her.
I remember my father building a swing under the oak. I remember the rush of the back and forth, the pure laughter. My sister once did the same. The rope spring broke one day. The fall hurt, and my father never fixed the swing. By then, he couldn’t. He and I often watched the ghost of my sister play, tears streaming.
I remember my mother reading to me under the oak. She was always there when I needed a book. She could never bring herself to mourn my sister’s ghost.
My memory has always been strong.
As I stand here amongst the reeds, I see all the ghosts. They are either memories or souls, neither of which can return.
My own path led me back here amongst the reeds, the winds and the waves.
The swing had never been repaired. I can’t remember the last time we were all here. The lake had receded, and no insects zipped through the air. I miss what this place had been.
I turned around, surrounded by wisps of white, and kept moving forward.
*Photo by Erica McClure