Summers were constructions of my father’s heart

by Ren Pike

Without fail, every weekend, May through September
eight of us would pile into our car—a vehicle so old and
wretched, we held our breath at every bump, every gravel turn.

Going to the cabin. A one-room shack my father got for a song
because it was nowhere anyone of means wanted to be.

Leaving after work. Arriving always at last light. Unloading
from the buckling roof rack. Food and clothes. Toilet paper
and dish soap. Potable water and power tools.

In winter, he dreamt of summer.
In summer, he built.

Sheds and verandas. Gardens and swing sets. Generator platforms
room extensions. Roofs and wells and outhouses.

Driving out of the city. On highways lined by scrub spruce. Berry barren
blurs of juniper. Chill blue waters. Moose looming near the shoulder.

Every trip he managed to pack in just a little more. Dogs in laps. Bums
on knapsacks. Seat belts reconfigured so there was room for the window,
the toilet seat, the bucket of paint, the bag of nails, the workbench,
the latest salvage from someone else’s teardown.

Memories indelible and fragrant. Sawdust. Gasoline. Tar brushes.
Engine oil. Holding clapboard, carrying mitre boxes. Using our bodies
to keep lumber in place as he measured and marked and sawed. Metal
teeth digging in and chewing up. Long pulls of pure strength. Hammers
freeze-framed. Moisture beading on his brow, and his glass.

He shaped everything. With his blunt hands. With his big laugh.
His indomitable vision of what could be built from what was at hand.

Summers were constructions of my father’s heart.

— from Juniper Volume 3, Issue 2