Heartsgrove forest part 2, English

-“Finally dad! You’re always late!” I said when he pulled alongside the curb. -“Aw Jack, I’m not that late. I just had to pick up some stuff from work, you know how it is.”  Yeah. I did know how it was. Looking in through the window of the front passenger seat I saw it was full of manila folders and thick stacks of paper. Sighing, I threw my backpack into the back seat and got in after it. Without comment, dad pulled away from the curb and started driving with the goal of grandma’s countryside house in mind. The air in the car was thick with the heat, and all the way dad switched between yelling at the other drivers and trying to question me about my grades.

Trying to explain things to my father was a bit like pissing into the wind; a brief relief followed by a bitter spray. Arguing back and forth about why my grade in math was so bad and why I hadn’t made any progress in English became old pretty quick. Trying to divert him from the topic of my grades, I decided to ask him about next term. -“Dad… I was wondering. I still don’t know what school I’m going to after the holidays…” I could hardly even get it out until he interrupted me. -“Whichever it’ll be, you’ve got a LOT to work on, son. This summer won’t be just strolling around and climbing trees.” Sighing yet again, I slid into silence. Of course, everyone started their vacation that day, and we spent what felt like forever on that highway. My father couldn’t stop complaining about the other drivers, how late we were going to be and how horrible my grades were, and finally I just drifted off. Sliding between being asleep and being awake, I sat watching the world pass by outside. The sprawling city finally giving way to the suburbs and finally relenting into the calming scenery that makes up the countryside.

Dozing in the backseat, I finally felt the familiar bouncing and rocking as the car turned onto the small graveled road leading up to grandma’s house. Located just below a hill, the house sat like a tiny mushroom surrounded by a forest of tall, dark trees. Every time I see it, even to this day it seems like it’s just taken right out of a fairy tale. Seeing as how that summer turned out, it just might have been…

Darkness had fallen and smoke was coming out of the chimney when the car pulled up to the house. Grandmas dog Molly came skipping and yapping towards us. She was a small furry type dog, with so much energy contained in that little body it kept spilling over into the world. Running in circles around us while we were carrying our bags into the house, almost tipping me over several times by jumping up against my legs. From the open door and windows a slight scent of cinnamon and vanilla came drifting out into the night air. I could hear grandma bustling around in the kitchen, the sounds holding the promise of warm food, sweet dessert and relaxation. The tension that my dad had built up with his constant nagging and critique just melted away. After all, I knew what were to come. Or, at least, I thought I did.

After being welcomed, having hugged and all those things that families do when they have been apart for a while, we were led into the dining room to sit down for the evening meal. Talking with grandma was always a bit tricky, if you wanted to avoid the kind of cliché-ish statements of “how tall you’ve grown!” and “I remember when you were just a baby!”… But it was easy to put up with. Grandma was a very easy-going old lady, almost a walking template of how your parents’ parents should be. Gray hair pulled into a bun, a flowery apron covering her linen dress, and a pair of sensible shoes… the very essence of a caring old woman. Walking around the table pulling the lids off the serving pans, letting the bottled-up scents out to spread across the room, grandma kept up her small-talk until she suddenly stopped to look at me. -“My god, Thomas, you’ve got to feed the boy more! He’s so skinny! And at this age too, when they grow so much!” she chided my father. Hearing him being told what he’d done wrong after having to listen to the same thing for such a long time felt good, but at the same time I felt a bit ashamed. It wasn’t dad’s fault that I’d grown so tall… but then again it wasn’t my fault that I enjoyed daydreaming and sketching more than I did maths. Well, not completely anyway. Serving up generous portions of home-made meatloaf, potatoes and gravy, all three of us set into eating with much gusto. Half-way through the meal, granny went back into the kitchen to fetch freshly baked bread. The smells that accompanied her made my mouth water and stomach grumble, even being half-full with food as it was. Eating like it was my last meal the plate was quickly cleaned of every last little crumb. -“That was absolutely delicious, grandma!” I said, finishing the sentence with a small burp. -“Yeah, Rose, that was really superb. Your cooking was always good, even better than Alice’s…” Hearing dad start out with such enthusiasm and end in sadness like that really brought back all the hurt. Five months ago my mom slipped and fell from a chair when fetching things from one of the top shelves in our closet, and broke her neck. When I got home from school that day I found her on the floor, lifeless and still. Crying and sobbing I had called the ambulance, but there was nothing they could do. She was gone, and ever since that day nothing has been the same.

Before I could even react to what he had said, I could feel the tears rolling down my cheek. It still hurt, a lot… and I suppose it should. I could tell from both dads and grandmas expression that they felt it too, and the happy feeling we’d had all through dinner was swept away. Pushing my chair from the table, I excused myself. Under mild protest from grandma, I left them to go to my room a bit. I wanted to be alone. Shutting the door behind me, I heard my father -“It’ll be ok, Rose… he can take it. He’s tough. He’ll be fine.” But I didn’t feel fine, and dad’s words grated pretty badly. I was just a kid! I wanted a hug, a few comforting words, a rock-solid dad to rely on and who could support me when I was sad. Hurrying up the stairs into my room, I slammed the door behind me.

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