An envisioning . . .1900 and a summer afternoon winding down at grandfather’s dacha near Pavlovsk.

Oh to be there.

Summer under the white nights and no Petersburg nannies and their boring rules. Cousins to play with and dance concerts in the park to run around the outside of with no one saying anything. No, trying to make noise only when they applaud or when the drums are loud. Otherwise, grandfather coming out to snarl.

Grandmother letting the girls play jump rope with her ropes of pearls and Mother letting everyone run free. Always worried about what they think at the embassy next door, but those people gone back to Berlin to meet with their Kaiser.

Mushrooms to find in the woods and a creek to swim in. Pony carts to ride around in and the tsar’s little cousins with one with goats up at the other end of the park. One the same age with a July birthday and letting everyone who came to his birthday party have a turn.

A summer village’s worth of dachas with grandchildren in each one. The ones next door to play with and the others further down. Same Sunday school in the winter, but everything having to be arranged and set up. Easier just to run over instead of wait for the coachman to have time after Mother paid her calls and Father needed the sleigh and horses to visit his clubs.

But everyone tired, the grownups napping Sunday afternoon away and up in the nursery trying to be quiet so they can sleep. Outside later but not until after the maids bring tea. The housekeeper on her afternoon off and Mother forgetting to come.

Fun it is. Time to go through everything in the closet that every child who has been a child in the nursery ever decided to keep. Half-forgotten much of it is but fun to look at. Dried flowers from some older sister, special rocks and a good luck pebble that someone brought back from a holiday in Finland. Old pictures in watercolor and chalk of Easter and one of great-grandfather jumping into the Neva through a hole in the ice on New Year’s day.

One of a little girl in the very back wedged in with ribbon bows in her hair. Sad later she was. Grandfather’s big sister it must be. Happy then but the big wedding to an army chap who died fighting the Turks.

But happy then . . .no way not to be happy . . .sun, friends and goat carts. . . What else does one need . . .

Princess Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg. 1855.
Princess Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg. 1855. Oil on canvas. Franz Xaver Winterhalter, painter (1805-1873). In the public domain in the United States because the artist has been dead over 70 years. via

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