As children, trips to the Cedar Pond, as we call it, had always been positioned as healthy outings with the purpose being, I suppose, to tire us out.
Now that we are more aged, we are already tired and there is less enforced activity. In fact, it’s not even much of a walk anymore. Though, getting through the weeds and grasses that are well over The Mom’s head can be construed as exercise, though I’ve no idea how many calories one might burn in the process.
As we are a family of traditions bordering on a rigid adherence to routine, there are a few things that can always be counted on:
There will be a stop in Fergus at the local Tim Horton’s. When we all file out of the car, I’m generally nominated to be in charge of all purchases. I am given (since I never have the right currency) a collection of coins and sent off with several caveats: someone won’t want the weird thing Other Brother got last time (it was a blueberry filled donut type thing in the shape of a flower or something close), somebody will shout that The Hounds cannot have chocolate, someone will want a fussy coffee (which everyone knows will not meet the strict standards), and The Mom will plead that I don’t go overboard. I will, of course, ignore all of this and come back with more than we could or should possibly ever eat (as this is the only family-sanctioned time I’m allowed to have donuts – oddly, deep fried balls of doughy sugar don’t mix well with Crohn’s).
When I return, we have a short feast and then everybody looks at me and asks if I need to use the toilet before we carry on. I always say no, get back in the car, and immediately change my mind.
Once we’re on the road again, we’ll come to an unmarked road whereupon The Mom and Crazy D will argue and dither over which route we’ll take. Since, if he’s joining us, Crazy D will be driving, he always wins and this sets The Mom off on a series of muttered back seat driver comments, causing Crazy D to turn up his music.
Upon arrival, there will be a scramble to get out of the car, and I’m generally hopped over by whatever dogs happen to be with us. I will go crashing into the woods after them, with everyone else shouting, “Be careful! Don’t trip!”
It used to be clear they were shouting only at me, but these days, what with Elvis being more crippled than I am, it’s somewhat unclear.
We’ll all take a short walk down to the pond and then everyone but The Mom will decide to hike through the cedar trees to the end of the lot. The Mom can be counted on, at this point, to say:
“Really? I don’t know if I really want to walk all that way.”
We will ignore her completely, and carry on, and she seems to feel she has no recourse but to follow us. Perhaps she thinks we’ll lose her in the grasses, which, given that you can barely see the top of her hat, is perhaps a valid fear.
In the woods, someone will find the skull. It’s never the same skull, but there’s always at least one. It’s like finding the clover leaf, but without the attendant luck. The one who finds the skull basically wins at the day.
We’ll wander around, ducking under dry branches and someone, usually The Mom, will get scraped or have a stick go in her eye. To counteract this, she’s started wearing her sunglasses at all times, which in some ways is a good idea, in others, less so. It’s dark in there, and though her eyes and most of her face are protected (they’re massive sunglasses) she can’t always be counted on to see the tree roots. We’ve taken to shouting, “Mind the roots!” But for reasons known only to her, she’ll look up at the person doing the shouting at the exact moment she’s meant to be looking at the floor, and trip anyhow.
There is ‘a clearing’ where we think we’ve buried our grandparents. Well, we know they’re buried somewhere in the woods, but everyone’s not always in agreement over which ‘clearing’ it is. Because as the years go on, and the forest changes, so do the clearings. There will be a small discussion and a moment where we stand there, thinking of, I suppose, times past.
In a lot of ways, that’s what the trip to the Cedar Pond is about. The old days. So it’s fitting that this most recent trip was made in Elvis’ honour, as he’s now as much a part of the old days as any of us. I think we tried to arrange this trip for when I was around in the summer, but getting everyone’s schedule to coincide with my brief appearance proved rather more difficult than imagined.
I do wish I could’ve been there. Elvis is a great fellow. What’s more, I do hope he’ll be up to it when I’m home over Christmas, because it’s one thing taking an axe into the woods by yourself, but with a fine hound in tow, no matter how aged or crippled or generally shaky… it’s a far better matter indeed.