Originally published: January 25, 2009
“Look Grammy,” my grandson said breathlessly on that June evening 1999.
“It’s the kind of moon that wolves howl at, I’m scared.”
I told him he had no need to be frightened as here in N.H. we do not have wolves. My words of comfort scattered to the skies. He moved his chair closer to mine and reached for my hand.
His fingers were tense as he entwined them around mine. It seemed that his over active mind would not let him relax. I, in turn, searched my mind for a way to keep his imaginary foes at bay.
I began to tell him a tall tale of how a bass had spit out a rubber worm and grumbled, Patoohie! The sound that flew from my mouth made him laugh. It was not a full, belly laugh but it was a start. Or so I thought until he asked, “is it true that wolves do not like to be around fires?”
“Most animals stay far away from fire, Sweetie. They know it can be a dangerous place for them.”
Grandson sat back in his camping chair and I was thankful that the imaginary stories I had relayed had done their job. I tossed another log onto the fire and sat back to watch the flames lick at the hard wood.
I looked up to the sky and watched the dark clouds crawling in front of the moon even more heavily than before. Rolling my eyes to their corners I watched my grandson watching me.
“Grammy? Did you know that when cowboys are on the trail they sleep on the ground by the fire and cover their eyes with their cowboy hats?”
No! No, no, no my insides screamed. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t? I dared not ask where he was going with this bit of information for fear that he would speak my thoughts aloud.
“I don’t have a cowboy hat but I could put my baseball cap over my eyes.”
“You could but remember, we do not have wolves in New Hampshire.”
The silence that followed was stretched as tight as the bark around a tree.
My heart ached for the child but no way did I want to spend the night in the open. There could be snakes crawling up my pant leg or skunks roaming the perimeter of the campsite or racoons coming out to cause havoc. I chided myself for the silly ramblings and tossed another log on the fire.
Sparks danced among the ashes and the wood caught. Its brightness revealed logs covered with darkened scripts. I asked my grandson what he saw in the strange burn marks and he began to show and explain to me what he thought the different designs were. Again, I was toppled -over by his great understanding of the world of wood art. An art form as primitive and as old as the skies themselves.
“It’s getting late, are you ready for bed?”
“Noo, I want to stay by the fire.”
I could see that the boy was fighting sleep but did not push the issue.
Out of the quietness came the soft sounds of sniffles and heart wrenching sobs.
“Hey. What is the matter, Big Guy”
Before I could react, I felt the weight of the child on my lap. A six year old’s limp body is heavy. So heavy that I could hardly breath.
My good sense sailed with the breeze and I found myself asking, “do you think you can carry the sleeping bags out here?“
The sobs subsides and his sniffles came to an abrupt end.
Neither one of us got much sleep that night but we got to know each other’s thoughts and dreams. We got to tell one great tale after another and to let our imagination run like the wind.
The following morning I could barely crawl out of the sleeping bag. My body refused to function as it should. There was a tight knot in my back, my neck was stiff and my bones hurt.
The moans escaping from within me woke my grandson and he popped out of his sleeping bag.
“Hey, Grammy one of the logs is still burning a little, can I throw another piece of wood on it?”
“Yes, but do it gently.”
A thought that would save me from another night of torture came to mind and I added, “you know, I think you should keep a small fire going all day then by nighttime all of the wild animals will know to keep away. The smell of smoke will carry the message that it is unsafe for them to be here for miles and miles.”
I was hoping that this tale would keep him from thinking wild thoughts before the new evening.
Nighttime found us at the firepit once more. A new moon was slowly rising from the horizon.
That’s the kind of moon that trees like.”
I looked up and smiled my agreement.
A lone pine stood on the shores of the water, a full moon hung between its branches promising a night to remember. A night to snuggle between the folds of a sleeping bag to dream sweet dreams of moonlight and of how wonderful it is to have the love of a child.
Editors Note: Lorraine Cookson passed away on October 27, 2013 after a brief illness. As one of our first columnists, she was very active with the Senior Center and attended nearly all the events in Town. In memory of Lorraine, we will reprint each one of her columns on Sunday mornings.