It was the last day, of the last month of The Remembrance. A warm breeze with a hint of summer wandered into the little cabin through the kitchen window and infused itself with the aroma of fresh baked bread. It carried it out the front door to the porch, where it danced with the tendrils of smoke from grandpa’s Cuban cigar.
Little One sat on the steps of the porch with her coloring book in her lap, her purple crayon worn down to a little nub from constant use. Grandpa turned his head to release another puff gently down wind. His maple rocking chair creaked steadily like an old clock, deepening its groove in the porch. The birds harmonized with the metronome of rocking, and a beautiful song lulled the afternoon.
Wally lay nearby, his fluffy tail swishing happily back-and-forth, flirting dangerously with the curve of grandpa’s rocker over the floor boards.
The smell of grandpa’s cigar meandered its way around the cabin. This Monte Cristo was from the few left in his humidor, carried home from his first visit to Cuba many moons ago. Since then, the borders have been removed, and it is not very difficult to get a Cuban cigar, but grandpa still insists these procured during divisive times were undeniably better.
Smells can be more powerful than any other memory sensation, and the essence of cigar, baking bread, cedar, and the coming of summer formed a warm nostalgic feeling in Little One that was comforting and hopeful.
“Grandpa, can we stay at the cabin longer? I don’t want to go back home yet.” Little One tried her ploy for the third time that day. Grandpa just smiled and gave a slightly different version of the same answer he gave before, “You can stay as long as you want, I’d be happy as a clam, but your friends would probably miss you back at school, don’t you think?”.
“No, they never want to come back either, they are having just as much fun as we are on ‘Membrance Time. Nobody ever wants to come back.” Little One pouted a bit, but didn’t really seem too distraught.
Grandpa cracked a smile that was barely visible through the perfectly formed smoke ring. “Well, when I was your age….” he began, but was quickly interrupted…
“Oh brother Dad! You always tell us how everything was harder when you were a kid.” Little One’s mother playfully shouted from the kitchen, as she put another oat bread in the oven—a cherished recipe handed down through generations from dear family friends, the Hitchcocks. Grandpa always talked about the Hitchcocks.
“Now hold on,” Grandpa interjected, “I was GOING to say that when I was your age I was there during Global Pandemic One and noboby celebrated Remembrance time yet. AND, most people only had two or three weeks off from work per year, AND everyone took their vacations at different times. It was a very different world then.”
Little One perked up, “So you mean some families couldn’t go to their cabins all at the same time? And you only had 2 weeks? That doesn’t make any sense.” Little One shook her head in confusion, but remained deeply attentive to Grandpa, for she really did love hearing his stories from the “old” world.
“It may not make sense to us now, but back then it was normal to work all year long, and we paid very little attention to our planet and our friendships. Remembrance Time didn’t start until 2022, after the Second Global Pandemic finally taught people the value of rest, earth care, and community time.” Grandpa took a sip of his bourbon—perfectly paired to his Cuban cigar.
Little One looked a little perplexed and stared at the floor with her eyebrows crossed.
Another puff, and he continued, “Can you imagine what it was like back then? We didn’t have six months of Remembrance Time every year to stop shopping, buying, and polluting and just hang out with our families and friends. We couldn’t take trips to our cabins whenever we wanted, we didn’t have Community Bonding Weeks, nor Artistic Discovery Parties, or Spiritual Quest months. None of that. It was work, work, work, and then you die.”
“Dad!” Mother piped in from the kitchen, “You don’t have to paint such a dismal picture. You’ve shared lots of good memories from your pre-Remembrance days too.”
Grandpa made a funny face at Little One and pretended to choke himself. Little One giggled.
Grandpa smiled, then he leaned back in his rocker, took another puff and his face got sullen.
“It wasn’t until Global Pandemic Two, in 2022, when more than half the world’s population had been killed in less than 3 months, that people started to wake up and see the Light. It was a heartbreaking year, but sadly it had to happen for us to finally start listening to Great Mother Earth. Global Pandemic One wasn’t taken quite seriously enough, even though we lost nearly a third of our global Brothers and Sisters in that
Little One let her eyes sink to the floor. She wasn’t giggling anymore and grandpa saw this conversation was moving in the wrong direction. He kickstarted a smile and changed his tone, “But that’s all long gone now. We are pretty lucky nowadays, aren’t we? Crystal clear air, sparkling rivers, and oceans filled with vibrant life. Wars are only tales from the past, disease and cancer only live in medical history books, and every one of our global Brothers and Sisters are fed and cared for. We are so blessed!”
“What’s cancer?” Little One queried. None of the other items on his list seemed very unusual to her.
“I don’t even remember!” Grandpa said with a goofy laugh. Little One could tell grandpa was overcompensating for his gloomy opening, but she had to agree, life was pretty wonderful—but she really had nothing to compare it to. Life had always been this beautiful, at least as long as she had been alive.
She felt a little sorry for him. Well, not sorry—but sympathy. She was even more grateful for his happy and carefree demeanor, realizing what it must have been like to grow up in a world where Remembrance was not celebrated, and the Pandemics took your loved ones away. She loved grandpa even more now, if that was even possible.
“Grandpa?” She paused for a moment, as something seemed perplexing to her now, “How could our Council of Grandmothers ever let something like a pan-duh-mic even happen in the first place?”
“And that’s another thing!” He shook his hand in frustration and the thick pillar of ash fell from his stogie on to Wally’s head. “Oops, sorry Wally.” He composed himself, brushed Wally’s head, and started again calmly, “That’s another thing, we didn’t even have the Global Council of Grandmothers leading the world back then—every country had just one male leader—and they didn’t care much what happened in other countries. Our country in particular was led for many years by rich white men with very little ethical or moral awareness.”
Little One burst out laughing, “Now I KNOW you’re joking Grandpa! Who would ever think of letting MEN lead the world!? That could never happen.”
She turned back to drawing in her coloring book as if to close the door on that silly conversation. Grandpa smiled as he took another puff, the sun setting over the lake reflected in his eyes, and he whispered to himself, “If I only had a Cuban for all the things we thought would never happen.”