Three little girls bound onto the bed in the spare bedroom where we sleep, giggling and squealing and making tents with the covers. It has become part of the morning routine when we visit them in the old two-story house the family has been renting in New Jersey.
After a riot of laughter, arms swinging and legs kicking, the one-and-a-half-year-old and one of the 3-year-old twins head downstairs with Grandpa. The other twin goes to the window overlooking a stretch of land bordered by a line of black locust, sumac, and elderberry. “Come on, Gramma. Let’s watch.”
She stands by the window and I kneel, waiting and watching. A few shafts of dawn wrap around the corner of the house and warm the woods. Motorists zip by on a two-lane highway cutting through the countryside. A doe and a fawn emerge from the trees.
“It’s a momma and her baby,” she whispers.
A few moments later, a horse in an adjacent pasture clears his throat and stretches his vocal chords. The deer’s right ears shoot straight up. The horse whinnies. The momma turns and the baby follows, bounding into the woods, their white tails waving farewell.
One morning when we looked out the window, deer were sleeping in the grass. They were curled up like dogs by a fire. We walked outside later and saw swaths of grass flattened in the yard and along the back tree line. Separated by a wall and maybe 20 yards, the deer had been sleeping while we had been sleeping.
One evening near dusk, I stood at the window alone when a peculiar thing happened. It appeared as though the tree trunks were swaying, gently moving from side to side. I wondered if it was an earthquake, the earth’s crust moving, along with everything on it. The trees weren’t moving, it was a herd of deer foraging in the woods. They so seamlessly blended with the bare trees, underbrush and dead leaves that you could barely separate the deer from the tree bark. One deer poked his head out of the tree line, grazed a bit and then signaled to the others. They took off single file, white tails bobbing behind them, 11 in all.
A little voice behind me said, “Where’s your camera, Gramma?”
As unbelievable as moving trees, this young family is leaving New Jersey and moving home to the Midwest. They’ll leave behind rustic views and deer, only to be greeted by a gaggle of grandmas and grandpas, great grandmas and great grandpas, aunts and uncles and cousins nearby.
Their memories of the deer and bucolic countryside may fade in time, but maybe not. It was a special gift, a never-to-be-repeated season of life, a time when big eyes brimmed with wonder.
They will settle in more populated terrain now, a neighborhood instead of the countryside. They will have different views, new memories in the making, and a lot more people to love and share them with.