By Marissa solomon
They start slow, at 8:31 in late July. Mum and I race the setting sun around rollercoaster turns on Route 153 North to get to our neglected-but-once-well-loved summer home. It’s hidden in emerald woods on an opalescent lake. Opal was Oma’s birthstone, just like mine. She was all the colors in one.
The sun sinks lower, staining the clouds peach and gold. We’re sitting on the docks behind our house, feet swinging low in the water. Clouds, soft pink like cotton candy, float by. When I was little, I’d sit on the dock and wonder what a cotton candy cloud tasted like. Oma would tell me they tasted like a summer day. Looking at them now, I can feel her hands on my shoulders like I’m six years old again. When I taste summer, I taste the strawberries we would pick among the weeds by the garage where we stored the boat. She would give me the reddest ones.
“These are the sweetest, Marissa,” she would whisper. I wonder what she tasted, when she tasted summer?
The peach sky lasts a minute before darkening into a ripe tangerine color at 8:32, dripping with dark yellows, plum and cherry hiding behind the crests of the pines on the far end of the lake. Oma hated yellow — it reminded her of sickness. I wish she liked it; yellow roses would look nice at her headstone.
By 8:33 the indigo sky is now periwinkle, offset by blazing salmon colored clouds. Golds and yellows darken to another shade of orange-pink, like the lipstick that used to stain my cheeks when she kissed me.
At 8:38 those summer-tasting, cotton candy clouds have dissipated and the whole sky behind my back is a hazy lavender.
“I’ve missed you!” Oma would lean in to hug me, even if we’d only been apart for a day. Enveloped in her arms and her perfume, I’d breathe in notes of lavender. Her old crystal bottles collect dust in a cigar box in my room, but today my wrists smell like her.
In front of us, over the wobbly left dock, the sky is burning with rich reds and an orange so vivid, the white water lilies in the lake glow the same color. I used to take the kayak out with Mum and gather bouquets of water lilies, so many that they would spill from my arms like a tangle of vines. Oma would be sitting with her coffee at the kitchen table, and she’d gush over my petaled treasure, arranging the lilies in a glass vase.
“They’re beautiful! I love them,” Oma said, even as the white petals turned brown.
I brought her all my treasures from my adventures around the lake house. Mica chips from the driveway that glinted in the light. Sassafras leaves shaped like ghosts, whose stems tasted like lemon water. Perfectly smooth skipping stones. Hours’ worth of fresh picked huckleberries, holding my bucket with dark, purple-stained fingers.
All but the huckleberries were proudly displayed in Oma’s china cabinet. Shriveled Sassafras and dusty stones sat beside priceless German heirlooms. In the evening, we watched the sun go down over slices of huckleberry pie.
“Ach, Marissa! Your teeth are purple!” She’d laugh.
At 8:50 stars are blinking above Mum and me like fireflies, and the trees blend into the horizon. I hear Oma’s voice in the breeze, telling me the sky is huckleberry blue.
Marissa is a junior majoring in English and newspaper and online journalism. She enjoys hiking, skiing, road-tripping and traveling overseas. Her inspiration is her family, with whom she is very close.