He takes my hand and guides me up the narrow mountain path. Everywhere there are leafy queens and prickly kings. They tower like formidable giants, keeping us cool on this hot August afternoon. We step off the path and walk on needled ground that muffles our steps.
I spot a woodpecker high above me, working his beak in quick stabs on the bark of this ancient tree. Grandpa follows my gaze. “Woodpecker’s having a late lunch or an early dinner,” he remarks and winks at me. My stomach rumbles. I am thinking about the dinner we will have tonight. It’s my last night at the cabin. Tomorrow morning we will pile suitcases into the trunk of Grandpa’s Dodge and drive to Philadelphia. School will start soon, and my summer vacation is almost over.
I remember when Grandpa had to sneak the suitcases out into the car the night before he and Grandma were going to have to take me home. As I started to recognize familiar sights such as Trainer’s Restaurant on the corner of 309 and 663, I would begin to feel anxious. We had stopped there many times for food that tasted more like my grandma’s home-cooked meals than most restaurants. My grandpa always enjoyed the rather large portions. It was when we past Trainer’s without stopping that I would ask, “You’re not taking me home are you, Grandma? Grandpa?” Then the tears would come, and Grandma would start crying, too. “Now, Dottie,” my grandfather would say sternly, “we have to take Lynnie home. If we always arrive with the two of you bawling your eyes out, they’re not going to let her stay the summer anymore.”
On this late August afternoon I am thinking about all my favorite foods Grandma has made for the last cabin meal of the summer season – corn-on-the-cob, creamy mashed potatoes, fried chicken, homemade applesauce, and her famous lemon meringue pie. Grandpa startles me. “Look!” he whispers and points at the same time. I turn to follow his gaze just in time to see a small herd of deer leap over a fallen log and disappear into the deep quiet of the forest.
We step down the steep path, gingerly making our way back to the friendly cabin. My grandfather’s strong hand curls around my hand, and I feel safe and warm inside. Just as we cross the road, we see the sun sinking behind the edge of the lake, spreading its golden light on the shimmery surface of the water. The pines darken and become silhouettes just as the glowing cabin lights suddenly appear in our view.
“Hurry, Grandpa – we’ll be late for dinner!” We both grin widely, but our pace quickens. Grandma’s quite fussy about being on time for dinner. I can’t wait to tell her about our walk up the mountain. It’s my favorite thing to do at the lake when I’m on vacation, and I can tell it’s Grandpa’s favorite thing to do, too!