An envisioning . . . 1980 and a winter house by the sea where Georgia meets Florida.

Oh to be here.

February and ice but no snow. Funny. A fortnight but somehow feeling like days without end till spring. Two weeks for each grandchild now but entire months then. Mother bringing everyone down on the train with a tutor for each one while Father stayed in the big house on Long Island with the Rolls Royce and chauffeur to get to the stock exchange.

Down by Thanksgiving and not back till Easter. Christmas with biscuits and corn chowder and church in the little chapel down the way.

No one learning much and wanting to go ice skating at the rink in Central Park but the grownups hating to be cold. Ancestors who grew up somewhere really warm, they must have had.

But old rice fields to run across and ditches to jump. The river to try to paddle to the sea in the old canoe. Falling in buildings to play in.

School friends missed but the teachers with their homework not so much. Mad they would be later. The rest of the class knowing twice as much by then, but not mattering how. At least two months before going back.

Two canes to get around and no more running down the drive but still the same air to breathe and the same Christmas Eve supper with the little tree. Bedroom on the first floor, not the third, but the same porch and easier to walk out to without all those stairs and yelling nurses.

Up to the nursery for a look around and sitting down hard at the old painting table with its mottled stains. Drawer pulled open and little sister’s pictures upside down. But something harder at the bottom in a frame. A treat and a memory in flood. The elephant to ride after the rocking horse stopped rocking and his mane fell out.

From Mother’s brother, the one who fought for the Boers and never came back. . . that sad but the elephant not . . . no . . . a fine memory and an entire day to sit and enjoy it . . .

William Henry Vanderbilt III riding on a toy elephant. ca. 1904.
William Henry Vanderbilt III riding on a toy elephant. ca. 1904. Image via Facebook. In the public domain due to age.

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