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This is the time of year when we have visitors. It’s true we have them all year long, but we have many more in the summer, and they’re a different sort.
Almost every year someone calls or just appears out of the distant past. For many years we had people stop by who knew my grandfather. Most were students of his, and as the years went by they got older and older. The last of his students would be in their seventies by now, so I don’t expect to see any more of them. Increasingly, the ones we hear from now are those who knew me or my brother when we were kids just spending our summers here.
The other day I got an interesting phone call from a woman who had a summer romance with my brother and now, 37 years later, she called to find out what had become of him. Since he won’t be here until August and she was here for just a few days, it fell to me to fill her in.
She hastened to point out that she’s been happily married for 33 years and has no interest in rekindling the old fires, but was just curious.
I suspect that’s a common experience. If there was a place made for summer romance for the young, this is probably it. A great many ships pass in the cool mountain nights, and there’s always that curiosity about “What if…”
For my part, I’ve kept track, partially by chance, of a few of the young women I knew here in the 40s and 50s, some of whom I’m ashamed to say I treated very badly. But I’ve lost track of most of them, and I’m content with the memories of the hikes we went on, the campfires we sat around, the fireworks we saw together at the Village, the horseback rides and the square dances all along the valley.
The idea of seeing them again and finding out what their lives have been like isn’t something that appeals to me. I wouldn’t avoid it, but I wouldn’t look for them.
So why do older people, when they return here, seek out these people from their past? I suspect it’s because when they come, they find the valley just as it was 40 years ago. Of course there are more people and new houses, but the valley is essentially just as it was. Only we have changed. And we see the laughing ghosts of ourselves as children, and wonder, “What became of…?”
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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