The cabin looks smaller than she remembered. Buried away in the sand dune, off the gravel road sits a small rustic brown cabin with a surprisingly ample porch. Charlie drives up the remainder of the gravel road, her Subaru slanting upward facing an enormous oak tree. She puts her car in park and for safety, engages the emergency brake as her parents taught her to do when parking off the cabin’s hilly road. It’s been over ten years since she has been back here, and she can feel her breath caught inside her as she cuts the engine. This is home, this was home.
Charlie stands on the deck looking at the front entrance of the cabin her family spent countless summers in. They never took trips to Disney or went overseas together like all the other children in her grade school—experiencing Rome, Greece and the Philippines with their World-Traveling parents. They spent their summers here, in this two-bedroom cabin—no cable, no internet connection, and if it rained even slightly—no power. She finds the key under the muddy flowerpot filled with dirt and rocks, not the slightest inkling of vegetation, just where her brother said it would be. Turning the lock, Charlie opens the door and is consumed by faint memories. The cabin hasn’t changed much in the ten years she’s been away, the front room is filled with couches and various beds to fit their growing family during the summer. Light from the wrap around windows seeps in at every angle and makes it feel as if you are still standing in the middle of the woods. There’s a small wooden bench with various pairs of shoes, all sizes and shapes. Her father’s fishing poles are still leaning against the wall in the entry way. She doesn’t bother taking off her shoes and continues forward to the main room. A large wooden door separates the outer room from the main room, before Charlie was born, the cabin only consisted of the main room. A small quaint room with a few beds, a kitchen and a bathroom. It wasn’t until their family began to grow, that her grandfather and uncle built the surrounding outer room of the cabin, resembling more of a large porch than an actual room.
The floors creak as she takes in the small living room and kitchenette. She is taken back to those raining days when the power would be out and everyone would gather with books and flashlights to spend the day reading, her mother lighting a fire in the wood stove and they would all bask in the silence, listening to crackling fire and pouring rain. Everyone immersed in their own novels, their own worlds of adventure, mystery, or love.
Charlie takes a slow deep breath, trying to fight the tears she feels coming on. She didn’t mean to stay away this long, to take this long to come back here. Time has a way of slipping through our fingers, barely being able to grasp what is left before it has completely dissolved. Ten years. Ten years without being home, ten years without creating memories with her family: her brothers, their wives, her nieces and nephews. Charlie notices the refrigerator, it’s a different model than when she was here last, but the pictures are almost the same. Scattered across the refrigerator door are various photos of everyone in her family enjoying life at the cabin: her nieces and nephews jumping in the beach waves, her brother grilling on the deck, the old picture of her parents in their twenties hiking the trail head just behind the cabin. And then there’s Charlie, front and center on the fridge, clear as can be and not too clustered by the other photographs as if beckoning her to come home. In the photo, Charlie sits on the beach, her feet buried into the sand, on her lap sits Widget, her best friend of seventeen years. Charlie is laughing as Widget’s little snout is turned up to her face trying to drown her in kisses. Seeing the photo, Charlie instantly cries.
Releasing her tears, Charlie releases everything she has been holding in. She should have been here, she should have made more of an effort to come home and be involved. She’s missed out on the memories in all of these new photographs plastered on the fridge. She hasn’t thought about Widget in years, and that pain crushes her more than ever. At one point in her life, Widget was all she had, all that mattered in the World. And she’s let him go. She’s let his memory die; she’s let all her memories die.
Charlie can hear the car rolling up the gravel road before it’s even visible out of the cabin window. She gathers herself quickly, wiping her tears and heading over to the sink splashing cool water on her face. Erasing the emotion that has flooded over her. She can hear the chatter of her parents, and the car doors opening and closing unpacking their things. They know she’s here because they parked right next to her, she can hear her mother yelling, “Charlie! Yoo-Hoo! Charlie, come help me with this bag!”
Charlie leaves the cabin and finds her mother on the deck hauling a large bag of groceries, “Charlie, grab this bag—” her mother stops as she looks up and see’s Charlie’s face.
“Honey, what’s wrong” her mom dropping the bag as if it were worth nothing,
Charlie can’t keep her composure, when her mom knows something is wrong, she’s always right and won’t stop until she gets it out of you. Again, Charlie starts to tear up, she can’t even find the words to describe what she’s feeling. Her mom doesn’t miss a beat, and wraps Charlie up into her arms,
“Shh, honey, it’s okay, it’ll all be okay,” she whispers as she gently rubs Charlie’s back, Charlie doesn’t even have to say anything, “You’re here now, sweetie, you’re here now. That’s all that matters.” Charlie stays being held by her mom as she quietly sobs, she can hear her father make his way up the deck. He doesn’t say anything either, just embraces his wife and daughter. Together the three of them stand, and Charlie can’t help but think how amazing it is to finally be back home.