The last relic
Jim Krosschell remembers the objects of a summer childhood @ The Common.
In 1964, as a kind of recompense for, or salvation from, moving us to the treeless, waterless plains of Minnesota, my parents joined with Henry, my mother’s brother, in the purchase of a cabin in northern Michigan, and for seven summers thereafter we escaped. It was three months of heaven after nine months of hell. I remember it, vividly; the memories are icons, glassed-in and shimmering like relics of the Church.
The fireplace: It was huge to my young eyes, probably a dozen feet tall and half a dozen wide. We were told that its construction included rocks from every one of the Continental states, and there was even a diagram mapping stones to states. Like the craftsmanship and beauty of the entire property, the fireplace was so imposing that we were shy of it, the reverse of pride, for we didn’t create it, we just happened to be fortunate enough to enjoy it and the cabin for our short time on earth.
The tables: In the dining room – a “great room” in today’s market – the long table and its plain benches had been handmade of oak. No ad in Crate and Barrel for “farmhouse table” will ever live up to the dark, worn beauty of that wood. Not that we ate there all that often. Breakfast, certainly, in little parades of cereal and toast brought in from the narrow galley kitchen and consumed at its near end. And on rainy evenings, there were large family gatherings with cousins and cards and bowls of popcorn. Outside was the place to eat, every chance we could, transporting braunschweiger and burgers to the little patio of brick next to the stone grill, and placing them on the other treasured table, a foot-thick round of redwood trunk, so heavy that it took all the males to bring it out from the shed and place it on its concrete pedestal, so precious that it had its own protective cover. Our communion over hot dogs or canasta existed out of time, or completely in present time, take your pick, and none of the dogma of the past or money worries of the future were allowed in, not even when Grandma or her black-sheep sons from the East would visit.