My sister, brother, dad and I sat around the old oak table as our hands traced words in the wood, chronicling love affairs and hatreds, young and old, feeling forgotten in the past and some still carried, carved into the surface by fork prongs and ball point pens: Sara + Alex P Keaton = True Love Forever, Go Red Sox, Broccoli is the devil, My brother eats poop, Mom + Dad = Lovey Dovey, the last message covered and hidden by my sister’s hand. A trace line, angle of the letter "M" peeking out, the end of what followed covered.
We can see the rocky shore of the lake, full of families, through the hazy double windows behind us, it's panes stained by fall and winter, the months when we always left the house alone, and this year spring, the first time we didn't come to the cabin for the long stretch of spring break. Kids running backwards out of the water as it tickles their toes, mothers, endless mothers, waving bottles in their arms, trying to tell their children to come back to the bright colored beach towels for one more dose of sunscreen. And teenage girls shimmering in oil lying out on the dock suspended in the lake so you had to swim to it; a fortress to keep away unwanted visitors like parents and younger brothers. These are places the places we once ran to when we arrived at the cabin, dropping our bags in the living room, bathing suits under our clothes so all we need to do is run down the short path to dive into our lake.
Today, our suitcases sit on beds just visible in rooms past the kitchen, swimsuits, tank tops, flip flops still folded in neat piles. Our feet scrape against the cold smooth floor, usually rough and coarse from the grit of sand carried in from the beach.
The smell of the bleach from last year, its sterile twang similar to another we were too used to this year. Mom had splashed it all over the floors, shelves and counters declaring that we would not leave our cabin a pigsty, it's always nice to come back to a clean place after a full year away. We hadn't helped, we were busy holding onto one last day of the summer.
We sit gathered around this table, in this cabin, in this woods that we had all known so well. We sit gathered around a table where we now fit comfortably, four chairs instead of the five we had crammed together for over fourteen years when we called ourselves a family
Dad makes the move first, shifting his chair closer to my brother and then we are all moving our chairs together, close enough so that we were sitting shoulder to shoulder, bumping up against each other like the canoes tied up outside, empty and unstable on the unsettled waves of the lake.