The rifles lean against the wall in the living room.
The orange hats and coats have awakened from their summer hibernation and emerged.
It smells like old woodfire smoke and Hoppe's gun oil in my house.
I am a young girl, and I know that this means deer season is coming. They will go. Some years many others go with them, some years not. But every year, it seems to me, they go. They go together. They seem happy when they go. They seem happy when they come back.
"When can I go?" I ask.
I look up at him, his strong hands, his big shoulders. He can do anything. He is a Titan, a superhero. He is my superhero.
"When you're older," he says.
"How much older?" I say, impatient. I want to go too.
"I don't know. When you're thirteen, fourteen, maybe. We'll see."
That seems like a lifetime to me. But I can wait. It's only a few more seasons, and then I'll go with them. I'll see the happy for myself. They will share it with me. I know they will. Because he said they would.
So I wait.
But things are different when I am thirteen.
The happy is over. They don't go there together anymore. What they had between them has broken.
It is on the ground, in pieces. They don't want it anymore. They are angry, hurt, bitter. They walk away from it. They don't want it.
My sisters don't want it. They are so little. They know it was, and now it isn't. They are sad, confused. But they don't understand it enough to want it.
I see it, I want it. It hurts me to see it broken. It feels like I am broken. It is where my roots were. Now my roots can't grow there. They don't grow anywhere. It's all broken up. Nothing can grow there now. It is a pitiful, unwanted thing.
But still, I want it. I'm the only one who wants it. Because it is where I came from. I was born out of it. I pick up the few pieces I can and try not to think of the promises, the dreams. The things I waited for that will never happen now. I try not to think of the things I cannot have.
Still, a part of me waits. And hopes. And remembers.
Time passes. I grow and move and breathe, and life helps me move along. I am a grown up now. I am newly married. I am learning to lay down new roots. I am learning to trust this new place where my new roots will grow. I hope this one doesn't break, I hope with all my heart.
I still carry my old roots. They are withered, dried. But still, I carry them. I can't put them down. There is no place to put them down. The old place is gone, but I can't find a new place to put down the old roots. I can't find a place that connects me to the thing that got broken. There is no place that feels right. And so I have carried them all these years.
Time passes. They both move on, too. New families. New homes. New. There is little thought of the old. The old has to share with the new. Things must be moved, space must be made. Some of the old things now live in the new, but not that thing. She doesn't go there anymore. He goes without her. He goes alone.
And still, I remember. I wait.
And then one day, he says to me, "You should come with me." And I smile. And my heart rejoices. He invites me and my husband. And we go. And I don't know it until I get there, but he has given me a wonderful thing.
It is a gift. He does not know it's a gift. He does not know how precious it is. He cannot imagine how meaningful it is. He does not realize the importance of it.
Because this is where they used to go. And although she is a hundred miles away, I feel connected to them both. At the same time. In this place. This place that is mostly untouched by others. I told her I was coming, and she was happy. When we come now here it is only us. This was their place. He shared it with her then. Now, he shares it with me. They share it with me.
When I am here, I can reach back across time. In this place, I stand with one foot in the now, and one foot in the then. And I feel peace. I feel calm. I can hear the echos of them. Still here, ringing out across the years.
He tells me stories of her. Of them. He shows me her hunting spot. He tells me of how she got her first deer. He shows me his hunting spot. He tells me of all the deer he has gotten there. In a few years, he gives me his spot.
In my life, there have been things I wanted him to share with me. And this is the thing he chose. This simple thing that is so much more than a simple thing. This thing he gave me is not just hunting. It is not just a season. Not just an experience. He gave me them. He gave me a few more pieces of the thing that got broken. A few of the pieces I could not pick up before.
In this place, I walk where they walked when they loved each other. I breathe where they breathed when it was whole. I laugh where they laughed when they were happy together. And this is the only place left on the earth like this. Because the home we had before it was broken is gone.
And in this place, I discover a place where I can set down my old roots. This is a place of the old. It has not been touched by the hurt. The broken has not come here. Everything that has come since has stayed away. This is where I can plant my old roots. And I can come back every year and see how they've grown. Every year, they grow a little. They grow into something new. But also something old. They are fertilized by the the pieces of the thing that got broken.
It is where the memories live. The memories of them and me and us before it all fell down. It feels like going back to my home.