Discover more from Megan Clouse: PhotoStory
Every summer, Annie drove seven quiet hours to the mountain town of Brookville, stopping long enough to toss Asher’s two mismatched duffels into her hatchback and then pointing the car back the way she just came. With hands waving goodbye out both sides of the car, Annie gave two quick toots of the horn, and off they went back toward the ocean.
With a beaming smile and one hand on the wheel, Annie squeezed Asher’s knee, “I’ve missed you so much!” She always tried to use some restraint, especially now that he was nearly a teen, but she could feel her heart bursting wide open as her only nephew sat beside her in the passenger seat.
She gave a quick tussle of his hair while turning the car back onto the two-lane highway and peppered him with, “How the heck are you - gah, you look great - tell me all about 7th grade - which subject is your favorite - and how did you like playing soccer last year?” Asher shook his head, laughing at her enthusiasm and the ridiculously long question. Sometimes he thought she was goofy, but deep down, even though he tried to play it cool, her unwavering enthusiasm made him feel so loved.
Asher spent the next hour of the drive getting her caught up with the surface stuff, the stuff we talk about in the beginning when we haven’t seen someone for a while; the cool science class experiments, playing goalie, and how his dad got him an acoustic guitar for his birthday.
“You getting hungry for some dinner? Want to stop at that funky diner that’s just up the way?” Annie asked.
“Yea, that sounds good,” Asher replied. “And remember last year you asked for a small chocolate shake, and the waitress brought out that massive metal cup?”
Annie smiled back, “Ha, yes! We both took huge spoonfuls, and even with your help, we could not finish it!”
With full bellies, refilled from a couple of tuna melts and iced teas, they walked shoulder to shoulder back to the car. Annie, still feeling grateful for their annual reunion and a bit melancholy as well, she threw her arm over him as they walked, “So how the heck are you really doing? How are you two holding up? You know I miss my sister every single day.”
Asher was quiet as the car tires crunched across the gravel, back toward the highway. He reached his hand over to Annie’s and said, “I miss Mom every day too.” Over the next hour, they both took turns wiping tears from their cheeks to their hands to their shorts and snorting snotty laughs as they told their favorite stories about her. It was good for both of them. Really good.
After a late-night motel stay with two saggy queen beds and with only a few hours more to the coast, they both agreed to a sunrise start so they could be swimming by high tide and eating lunch at McSeagulls weathered picnic tables.
As Asher surveyed the water, Annie glanced over at him, trying to fill her memory banks to the top with this moment. He looked up, meeting her smile and giving her a head nod. Annie nodded back at him and shouted, “Ok, on my mark. 3, 2, 1, jump!”
[photograph by me - story is fictional]
Note: Taken on Monhegan Island, Maine July 6, 2023. With my camera on my shoulder and my backpack holding my place in line for the return trip to the mainland, I walked about the pier looking for any last moments I could capture of the island. With dry clothes, these two were assessing their initial jump, which they joyfully did moments after I snapped this. They then took turns climbing single file up the ladder on the left and continued to jump over and over, squeezing in one final jump before my ferry took hierarchy precedence.