For most of my boyhood I lived with my family in a house built by my father out in the countryside of southwestern Michigan. It’s perched on the crest of a hill about five miles north of Buchanan and surrounded by farmland and virgin forest. Five miles may not seem like a lot these days, but when we first moved in one would have to navigate a two-lane country road and then two more gravel roads to reach it by car or tractor. Later, the county would pave Glendora Road, but Aalf’s Road, where we lived, remains a graveled one-laner to this day.
We did not have air conditioning, so any time the furnace was not needed for heat pretty much all the screened windows in the house would remain open all day and night. I shared a bedroom and one of two twin beds with my younger brother with mine on the side of the room adjacent to an east-facing window.
One of my fondest memories of living in that house was the smell of the sweet, country air that would drift silently through those open windows in the wee hours of a summer night. There was no car noise, or unnatural sounds of any kind out there. Just crickets and cicadas. A barking dog in the distance somewhere. And I recall sometimes lying at the foot of my bed with my hands and chin resting on the windowsill watching as the moon began to rise into the dark and star-studded sky. As it lifted fully above the tree line on the far side of the cornfield the lone tree that stood in that field would begin to throw a moon shadow across the waist-high corn stalks. And, if it was a full moon, it would be “…as bright as a readin’ light,” to borrow a line from songwriter, Mike Burton, and thus casting a soft, gray aura across an utterly peaceful and tranquil countryside. Sometimes I would fall asleep there.
You have probably heard the following story, or some variation of it, in a book or movie. For some reason, I remember it being in the context of an American Indian back in the days when the west was still being settled. In this version, an Indian brave was about to leave his family for points unknown for what was expected to be an extended period of time. His young son was deeply disturbed by this news and didn’t want his father to leave. So, the brave took the boy on his knee and told him that on the eve of every full moon to watch as it first rises in the east and he would do the same, no matter where he was. In that way, the two of them would be connected until his return.
It was a long time ago I heard that story and to this day this day I cannot cast my eyes on a full moon without thinking about it – wondering who all may be watching it along with me.
I’ve never heard the story but have, myself, triangulated on the moon with loved ones many times in my past. It’s a wonderful feelingâ€¦and a wonderful picture you’ve painted of the idyllic room you were lucky enough to have as a young boy. Loved it. Paint me green with envy.
I made a point of going out to check out that moon, though it wasn’t as enjoyable from here inside the crowded city.
I always thought your family’s house was one of the most wonderful locations. I loved the view from the living room windows, high up and looking out over the fields to the woods.
When our kids were babies, we built a house very like that–high on a hill outside of town, with the garage underneath, stairs curving up from the driveway to the front door, and huge picture windows facing both south and west from which we viewed spectacular sunsets and approaching storms. It always reminded me of yours. I miss the rural setting and that feeling of being temporarily above the reality of the world below. Don’t miss lugging groceries and toddlers up all those stairs though!
Thanks for the memories.
I feel like i was there with you feeling the damp night, the loud noisy cicadas and the mesmerizing light of the full moon. You have a gift for writing and painting a picture that draws the reader in with you. Thank you for sharing Skip!
I too, would gaze out the window chin resting on the windowsill. The sounds of night in my area west of town would echo in the darness, sometimes accompanied by the howl of a wolf or hooting of an owl. Our dirt road was paved in the late sixties, a good thing to be sure as the muddy ruts in the curves were often too much for young speedy drivers.
Hi, Skip! Thanks for taking me home…at least as far as “the corner” of Aalfs Road and Glendora! It took me back to the summer days of playing in the woods across Aalfs road and in the fields and meadows. Winter days spent sledding and tobaggoning down the hill to the end of the road are burnt in my memory. But one of the best times of the day was at night when a full moon and bright stars would light the night and I could see across the field to my grandparents’ farm. Of course, in the winter when the screens came off and the storm windows were up, it was even brighter and lighter as the light from the heavenly bodies were reflected off the snow. We were lucky to grow up where we did! My brother still lives out there…he is blessed.