A summer story
The Connecticut Deed
The cabin sat at the bottom of a gravel driveway, plopped just of the shore of the lake. Our van looked old next to Nana and Grandpa’s new Acura.
“Here, Sean, take your bag,” said Dad as he tossed stuff down from the tulee.
“I can take more,” I said. I pulled on the handle of the suitcase. It flew out and almost hit me in the chin.
“Sure you can, but just take that in for now, okay? Now go and tell your grandparents we’re here.”
I opened the door and Nana trotted toward me, arms spread for hugs. I politely wheeled my bag to the side, slipped off my sandals, and ran into Nana’s arms.
“Nana!” I tried to reach my hug all the way around Nana’s girth.
“Sean! Oh how you’ve grown! What have your parents been feeding you?”
Nana put me down and I ran to Grandpa who folded his newspaper and stood slowly. His voice was like chocolate with almonds in it. “Hello, big fella.” He lifted me up with extra puffing. “Where are your parents at?”
“Unpacking the van.”
“Well you’re old enough to help so you’d better go give them a hand. But give you Nana another hug first, she’s been dying to see you.”
I hated being old, but I did as Grandpa said, gave Nana a quick squeeze, and went to go help.
Outside Mom and Dad were arguing.
“Look how clean this place is. She even raked the driveway,” said Mom.
“You know she wants to make us look bad, me especially.”
“You two might have a history but that doesn’t mean she’s cleaning the house just to get you.”
“Scott, she’s sadistic.”
“She’s my mom.”
I stood there awkwardly. Mom and Dad were both out of breath and covered in bags and gear. The weight of it bent them over and they stood huffing at each other for a while before Dad noticed me.
“Here Sean. Take the tent.”
“Why do we need a tent?”
“Just in case.”
“Just in case of what?”
“Just in case your Nana drives me so insane I can’t sleep in the same house as her,” said Mom as she stalked towards the cabin. She was bad at speaking under her breath.
I turned to Dad. “Was I supposed to hear that?”
“Should I forget it?”
“Okay. I’ll grab the Monopoly board.”
I yelled after him as he walked away, “Hey Dad, can I sleep in a real bed and not the loft?”
We’ll see means no.
Back inside, Grandpa was taking Mom’s bags with a smile while Nana started dinner rolling in the kitchen. She looked like she was from a magazine with the light filtering through the trees outside. Her mascara helped. I carried Monopoly and laid it down on the coffee table facing me.
Monopoly was all about the cleanup. The winner cleaned up, that’s how it went. I fingered the edge of the board where the cardboard was worn. I’d never cleaned up. Dad or Grandpa had always beaten me.
“Hello!” Auntie Cara had inherited her father’s voice, and smoking had given it extra flavour. She was skinny, tall, and had fiery red hair. Hugging her was like looping your arms around kindling. She still gave the strongest hugs.
The tradition was only when everyone was together could the feuding begin good and proper.
At dinner we sat at the long table and waited for everyone to be served.
“Now this took some cooking, so I expect all of you to enjoy it and not just wolf it down. I’m looking at you, Sean,” said Nana as she waved a ladle at me.
“Oh Mum, how did you have time to make all this?” asked Auntie Cara.
“Nothing a good wife can’t make on the fly.”
Mom’s jaw clenched and she began to knead her napkin. Auntie Cara gave her a sympathy smile.
When Nana finally sat down I dove for fork and got my hand slapped.
“Wait for grace, Sean. Scott, will you say it tonight?” asked Nana.
Dad coughed. “Alright, sure, um–”
We bumbled through. I didn’t close my eyes, instead I watched Nana and Grandpa’s brows furrow deeper and deeper. When Dad finished we all dove in. Ham and potatoes and bread and a salad –that was sauce than salad– with butter on everything.
“So how’s school going, Scotty?” asked Grandpa.
“It’s fine, last exam was –“ he stopped himself “heck, though.”
“Good. Good. And any good job offers for when you graduate with…”
“A Ph. D. in economics.”
“Right. So any job offers?”
“None yet,” said Dad.
“Well, you know what Churchill said, ‘when you’re going through heck, keep going!’” chirped Nana and then turned to Mom. “Speaking of heck, how is your work going?”
“It’s going well, thank you, Noel.”
“Still with social work?”
“It must be nice to make a change. Especially for those who need it most.”
“Oh, Cara, you telephoned us the other day about your work, what was it?” asked Grandpa.
Auntie Cara pushed her glasses back with two fingers. “I don’t know, Dad. I can’t remember for the life of me.”
“It was a big opportunity but now you just can’t remember?”
“No. I can’t.”
They stared at each other, forks poised over cooling food.