You always thought you knew better, didn’t you, Dad?
The family vacation that you so desperately wanted to take; a trip to an isolated hunting cabin at the top of Moose Head Mountain would be just the thing to help us all relax and reconnect after this past hectic holiday season. A journey to the secluded, rugged mountains in northern Pennsylvania during the insulated month of January would not only be a way to put us back in touch with Nature, as well as each other.
Mother was against this plan; as she normally was against any type of family project that you came up with. The idea of leaving the comforts of our suburban home and traveling to a primitive cabin during the height of our coldest month sent chills down her spine. She refused to argue her point in front of the children, but she made no attempt to hide her disgust, and she made sure to pack her resentment along with her winter boots; both of which she kept handy should she need them at any part of the trip.
Stuffed to capacity, our vehicle crept along frozen, perilous roads that touted no guard rails, and much more ice than we were used to. As our car crawled along on silent prayers, and murmured curses, the feeling that we experienced was not unlike the proverbial emotional effort of walking on the eggshells that so often lined our household floors. So the feelings of fear and trepidation that we sensed were at least familiar to us, even if the passing landscape was not.
We arrived around midnight to a dark and freezing shell of dwelling, set against the backdrop of a encroaching winter blizzard. We fished out the matches that you, Dad, had brought along, as well as discovered an abundant supply of firewood to help keep us warm for the night. Mother’s furor was enough to keep her insulated, and she stewed in a self inflicted pot of self pity and irritation in the kitchen.
After a late night of board games and stories by the fire, each person in the family drifted off to sleep in our abundance of sleeping bags and blankets, with Mother’s slumber area being the farthest from the group.
We awoke the next morning to frosty air, and a horrific discovery that Mother had absentmindedly forgotten to pack the week’s worth of groceries; and as we all know, winter can be such a hungry time.
You, Dad announced that you would go ice fishing on the big lake that our cabin overlooked. Mother objected, saying that not only was it not safe, it was no way to solve our problem. But last night’s storm had left the roads blocked, and you, Dad, would not let your family go without the nourishment that we needed.
You decided to take your only son, Jacob, with you, and the two of you dressed heavily for the venture. We watched you set out across the lake with little Jacob tagging far behind. You must have been around the middle of the lake when I heard the ice crack and begin to break. The oldest sister, Bonnie, managed to pull Jacob back to the shore line, but none of us could reach you, and of course, Mother does not swim.
We radioed frantically for help and had to wait over an hour for the Life Line helicopter to arrive. I watched as the emergency personnel pulled you from the lake, stiff and blue.
I overhead Mother tell the EMT’s about the horrible accident, just as I heard your words echo in my ear as they had dozens of times throughout my childhood….
“Elizabeth, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear your mother was trying to send me to an early grave…”
Story by L. J. Priest
Photo taken by the always amazing Bri Samento Buffington
This is one of my first attempts at fiction, and I am happy with the results. I usually prefer to write in a journalistic, or autobiographical nature, or in poetry or prose; but this was a lot of fun to work on. Comments are welcome.