One of my earliest childhood memories finds me nestled in the back of a wood-paneled station wagon with my brothers and sister, crocheted afghans pulled to our necks, eyes fixed on the ceiling of the car, and little padding for our backs. Above us, centered in the beam cast from streetlights and traveling cars, our hand-shadow puppets danced across a stage until the miles found us far from home in the dark. Eventually, sleep would drag us into her arms, leaving our parents to navigate the balance of the drive in the quiet of each other’s company.
The rumbling of rocks and dirt under slow-moving tires signaled that it was time to hoist ourselves from sleep’s grasp so we could catch a glimpse of the trees. They loomed above us, then as fast, disappeared. It seems to me now that it was there suspended in the minutes before arrival in the hush of the car, that we came to see that all that is sacred is first rooted in peace. I imagine my toddler-self holding her breath the length of that dirt road until the car made its way to the grassy driveway. Once parked, the journey from Connecticut to Pennsylvania behind it, the V-8 engine was safe to sputter, cough, and gasp its way to rest.
In a rush, we would leap from the car where the scent of fresh-cut grass filled us, and the tick from the now stilled motor provided percussion for the chorus of humming crickets. In the dark, our dad made his way to the porch. We would wait until the familiar creak of the screen and sticking of the wood on wood from the shoved-open front door would bring him, and seconds later, all of us, into the light.
As soon as we crossed the threshold, enthusiasm and restlessness from the journey scattered us through the farmhouse like spilled marbles, the odor of the centuries-old wood walls intoxicating as the cool summer night air.
Our parents, exhausted from the drive, would herd us all up the stairs to the sleeping porch. One by one, we would take to our beds, the excitement of having arrived at the farm swallowed in exchange for the promise of a song.
In the glow of the single bulb burning behind him in the hallway, our father filled the doorframe. We could just make out his dad-song-gestures, a pantomime of buttoning up his vest and chopping the Douglas Fir, each timed with the words to his trademark singing of the Logger song. Like a quilt, our father’s singing voice spread over us and across to the meadow below, then, with a whisper of night-night, he was gone.
And there, shoulder to shoulder with my siblings, sleep would pull me into her arms again.