The crisp spring breeze softly kisses the young boy’s face as he sits in the rough grass. The trees beside him sway to a slow melody of birds singing and the lake’s cool water laps on the shore. The chords of a perfect day at the cottage create a symphony, that for some unknown reason, encourage the toddler to stand. The watchful and tender eyes of his grandparents watch as he takes his first steps, waddling around much like a baby duckling. As his grandpa laughs in glee and his grandma takes pictures, his mom walks out from the lodge. She drops the irrelevant groceries from her hands and covers her mouth. She is speechless. Her boy is walking.

*

“Wooohooo!!!!” The boy hollers from his flaming red bike as he pedals down the street in front of his cottage. Racing down the hot pavement, he feels like a Formula One driver, one with his bike. Completely forgetting his fear of falling and the absence of training wheels, he speeds towards his father, who throws his arms into the air and looks as giddy as he feels. As the boy comes to a halt, his dad picks him up and embraces him for who knows how long. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but what “they” forget to mention is you never forget the person who taught you.

*

The red-hot fire flickers in the crystal moonlight, shedding a spotlight onto the humble cottage. The boy is wrapped in a blanket of protective arms, holding a roasting stick in his right hand while he watches a magic trick take place. The fire changes an ordinary marshmallow into a delectable roasted marshmallow. He carefully retracts the charred stick from the fire and hands it to his dad, so he can harvest the precious marsh-fruit. With excellent precision, his father plucks the marshmallow off the stick. But wait – he’s handing it to his mom?!? Before the boy explodes in angst his mom plops the marshmallow onto a graham cracker, followed by a square of chocolate and yet another graham cracker. What is this? The boy stares at it curiously for a moment and then takes a bite into the gooey, savoury, sugary concoction and (for lack of a better phrase), falls in love. It tastes like heaven.

The memories feel like a lifetime ago. Many summers pass by, filled with endless laughter, revitalizing swims, radiant sunshine, and of course a mouthwatering family favourite; cheesy, crunchy, and salty mixed chips. Of course there are occasional days of stormy weather but nothing lasts long because when the boy and his family are at the lake, they are fulfilled, and at peace. The lake brings everlasting memories, too many to count.

The boy was growing, learning and maturing, but never alone. All through his journey he was being watched by the wise trees above him that stretched out to create shade, by the brawny mountains that sheltered him from the strong winds and by the warmhearted sun that kept the cold at bay. And of course by his parents, who loved him and supported him just like the cool breeze did on that day many years ago when he took his first steps.

Much older now than in those earlier days, the boy returns, as he does every summer. But this time, something’s different. His heart feels less like the light, fluffy, snowy white cloud it usually does and more like the dock anchor locked in the shed. He feels abandoned. Left out to dry. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. He has been hit by a common case of growing up. So consumed by his heartache, he can’t find himself and he’s struggling to get better. It feels like he’s quit the game when it’s only the first quarter. He can’t bring himself to compete for the title even when he’s got fans in his corner, too many to count.

However, the cottage notices this, you see. It opens up its blinds and lets the sun shine through. And though, at first, the boy cowers like a vampire in the light, the sun slowly melts the ice lodged in his chest. He peels off his blindfold to experience the beauty of the world; to read the words of life all around him once again.

This is only an early chapter in an everlasting novel, the type of book that’s so good you never want it to end. That’s at least how the boy sees it now, and how he wants his life book to read.

That’s how I want it to be. I know now that when my pages are filled with sadness, doubt and all the heartbreaking feelings of the world, I have a family that I can lean on. I can look to the sun, the moon, the mountains, and the trees because they will be there for me. The boy sees that now. So do I.