Every summer, my cousins and I would head down to a small farm, in the middle of nowhere Missouri. The farm used to belong to our family before we were even born, and some of it still does; except that most of it was sold and turned into a bed and breakfast. The bed and breakfast was built on our farm with three houses generously spread apart. They were placed on a hill sloping down to a shallow creek that was wide enough for wading in, and cooling off from the blistering heat. The house closest to the creek, and at the bottom of the hill, was the place that my mother grew up in. It was a traditional looking country house that was painted white with a large front porch. In the front, there was a homemade swing tied to a large oak tree overlooking the rippling water. The old house had a bonfire for late nights, and even an outhouse that was still functional and refurbished. Every summer, my family would go down to their old house (a.k.a the bed and breakfast) to spend some time together, and see how it was standing.
The first time I ever went, I was about five. My cousin Jenny came to spend the night with us there. Jenny was a year older than me, making her six. You know how you always have one cousin that you tend to get along best with? Maybe you don’t choose favorites because you’re the nice cousin, but there’s always going to be that one? Well, that was Jenny for me. We did everything together. We got matching dresses for special occasions, painted our nails while giggling like little girls, and had sleepovers making up pretend games that kept us occupied for hours. It was the life.
Jenny and I played in that creek for hours at the farm house. I had a little rubber duck floatie that I borrowed from the owners, and paddled around in that thing like nobody’s business. We played water games, splashing around pretending there was a secret island on the other side. As we were splashing around though, it started to get dark. The owner of the bed and breakfast came down from her house (which happened to be on the property) and told us we would need to get out. My parent’s came out of the house as well, and said the same. There was a storm blowing up, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. As we got dried off inside the cozy house, it started to rain. At first it was soft, but then it grew harder and harder. Some thunder rumbled in the distance, and a few flashes of light shone through. We were certainly glad we got out of the water while we could. Since the house was in front of the creek, we could see the water slowly rising. The owner told my parent’s it was dangerous to go near the water even though it was a creek, as it could rise very high. The only reason it was shallow in the summer was because the sun had dried up most of it. As the rain kept coming down, Jenny and I plopped ourselves in front of the television with some blankets, and put in a VHS tape of The Lion King. When we got to the part where Simba’s dad dies, Jenny started crying. At first I thought something was wrong, but then realized she was just sad at the movie.
Eventually the storm ended after a few days, and we were able to finish our water playtime, enjoying the rest of our time together.
A few years later, we continued our summer tradition by heading out to the old farm (a.k.a bed and breakfast) again. We weren’t able to book the house right next to the creek like the last time, but were just a little further up the hill. This time, I was eight years old and my cousins Jenny, (9) Laura (6), and Lily (4) all came to the house as well. Now it was a house full of girls! Now that I’m thinking about it, I feel kinda bad for my brother and dad who were the only men in the house that summer week. Us girls did anything little girls would do. We painted our fingernails, played in the creek, watched movies, and made up games. This particular house we were staying in, had many hummingbird feeders along the wide wrap around porch. My dad decided one day that he would go out and refill them. Before he could even put the juice in the feeders though, hummingbirds were swarming around him. It was like they came out of nowhere! As I watched from inside the house, he set the feeders on the hooks, still trying to not crush the little birds flying around him. When he came in, you could see the little dots on his hands and arms where the hummingbirds had poked him. It was pretty hilarious to see the expression on his face filling the feeders though. That night we had a bonfire, and cooked hot dogs and smores. Sitting in our wet swimsuits, little bottom marks appeared on our wood seats every time we got up to grab something. The bugs were a pain, trying to get them off of ourselves and out of the food, but we had to get used to them. Staying in the house on top of the hill wasn't the same as the farmhouse, but let me tell you, it had a beautiful view. The sunset in the evening brought out all of the best colors, with gold, crimson red, deep purple, and a light beige.
The fireflies were also a charming sight. They fluttered around, with a soft yellow glow encircling them the darker it got. As kids, we didn’t really think or care much about the sunsets or fireflies, we only thought about what was next. But as I’m getting older, I can really understand how beautiful it was- and how I wish I paused maybe once or twice more as a little kid to really notice them.
Our most recent trip to the bed and breakfast was a few years ago. This time, we were able to stay in the farmhouse next to the creek, and at 12 I actually didn’t remember much about my last time there. I was so young when I stayed in that little white house, that coming back to it was actually a fun surprise. The creek, homemade swing, bonfire, and big front porch were all there, and the memories started to slowly come back to me. I remembered the rain storm, me and my cousins’ Lion King bengwatching, and the yellow rubber duck floatie.
My cousins and I ran around in the grass with the fireflies, all the way till dark. We sat around the bonfire singing songs to Jenny’s ukulele, while roasting smores. When we were too tired to carry on, we went inside and put on an old VHS tape cozied up in our pajamas and blankets. We talked and played that whole summer week, and even though it might have been like the last two times, it just never got old.
That trip, I soaked up as many memories as I could hoping I would never take it for granted... or forget it, wishing I could stay there in the sunset, firefly summer days forever.