Keeping Faith by Cindy Bradford (serial 59)
Carol was weeding the flower beds that framed the front of the house when Patrick drove up, two kayaks perched on the top of his car.
“Hi,” he said, smiling as Olivia ran to the car.
“Daddy, Daddy, why do you have those on your car?”
“Because I’m taking you and Mommy on a trip.”
“Hip, Hip, Hooray! Did you hear that Mommy?”
Carol smiled, shaking her head, as she tossed a faded hydrangea bloom into the metal bucket she had found at a yard sale outside Rockland. She let herself fall back from her kneeling position to sit firmly on the pebbled steps. She was accustomed to Patrick’s surprises so she waited for the announcement, guessing that he been secretly planning this for days. His excitement was obvious as he revealed the upcoming event.
He picked Olivia up and lifted her high above his head. “How would you like to go to Moosehead Lake and see a moose, my special little one?”
“A real moose, Daddy?”
“Yes, a real moose.” He looked at Carol, searching her eyes for approval. “What do you think?”
“I think you’re a little crazy, but then it didn’t take a pending moose adventure to convince me of that.”
“Well, I thought you might think that so I talked to Tom, who was game to go. He’s supposed to tell Jean today. I just thought since you are going to your folks next weekend and then school starts, this might be our last chance to take a short trip to the lake before it begins to get too cold.”
“So, when is this backwoods excursion taking place, just in case I need to pack a few things?”
Sheepishly, he asked, “Is tomorrow too soon? I mean, I can help you get things together.”
Laughing and not surprised, Carol said, “Thank goodness I have a few hours. I was expecting you to say this afternoon.”
Standing, she removed her gloves and wiped the dirt off the back of her jeans. “I suppose I’d better stop this and get some items together. Just please tell me we are not camping out.”
“No,” he assured her. “I reserved two cabins within twenty feet of the water. They told me that they have a little pier for fishing, a couple of hammocks, a grill, and picnic table. “See, we’re going in style.”
He reached over and gave Carol a kiss on the cheek. “You’re a good sport. You and Jean can each have a hammock and read until your heart’s content. Tom and I will take care of the kids and cook. He’s bringing a canoe and bicycles. I need to attach my bike rack so I can take mine and Olivia’s. What do you think about that?” he asked, turning to his daughter.
She clapped her hands together. “Can Susan ride with us, please, please?”
“We’ll see. I’ll bet we can work that out,” Patrick said. “Now, come help me get our bikes and fishing gear.”
In the garage, he handed Olivia her Mickey Mouse fishing rod and tiny tackle box.
“Can you take that and set it by the car? Come back and get your life jacket when you finish that.”
Her little feet pattering on the steps, Olivia took her assignment seriously, elated at being her daddy’s best assistant. She loved the outdoors and was his perfect sidekick for any adventure. “Can Rocky go with us, Daddy?”
“We’ll have to ask your mommy, but I don’t see why not.”
Carol spent the remainder of the afternoon packing the suitcases while Patrick loaded the car with other necessities. Olivia and Rocky played within earshot. Often Patrick overheard the little girl whispering plans to the dog, assuring him he was not going to be left behind.
By the time the sun was coming into view both vehicles, packed with clothes, and loaded with outdoor toys, were being maneuvered along the winding back roads of rural Maine. Long before noon, the little girls and their daddies were wading in the cool water of Moosehead Lake while their mothers were comfortably ensconced in Adirondack chairs, enjoying their solitude, reading. Occasionally they looked up in answer to the never-ending “Watch us, Mom!”
When the men left with their daughters for a moose safari, Carol giggled and said, “I think they think we’re going to be so lonesome here all by ourselves.”
Jean laughed, “I know. Did you see how they looked at us so pitifully, like we had made such a mistake not accepting their invitation?”
“I hope they see a moose, otherwise Patrick will be more disappointed than Olivia.”
The sky was changing to a deep orange when Carol and Jean heard the loud voices of their daughters, “We saw four. We saw four mooses,” Olivia yelled.
“Four moose,” Carol corrected.
But Olivia was oblivious to her mother’s clarification.
“They look just like Bullwinkle,” Susan added, excitedly.
The men stood grinning as the little girls gave details of the boat ride, enthusiastically describing the moose, ducks and one beaver they had seen.
“One moose shook his head and sprayed water everywhere. He was so funny. You should have seen his face,” Olivia said, still out of breath from running and talking so fast.
“I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” Susan said, running off to the cabin.
“Me, too,” Olivia yelled, following at Susan’s heels.
Patrick laughed, “They drank a root-beer on the boat before we realized there was no restroom. They’ve both been about to pop for the last thirty minutes, but then they got so excited, I guess they forgot.”
“Did you have a good time?” Jean asked, looking at Tom.
“It was great. As you can see they were two excited little girls. They should sleep well tonight.”
“You missed a gorgeous sunset,” Carol said.
“I can tell. The sky is still beautiful. Look over there,” Patrick said, pointing to Mt. Kineo, silhouetted against the fading oranges and reds.
Tom came from his cabin holding a bottle of cabernet and four glasses. “Shall we toast to the moose?” he asked.
“Sounds good,” Patrick said.
“Let me check on Olivia to be sure she’s in the tub and I’ll be right back,” Carol added.
“I guess I’d better do the same. I’m afraid this won’t be a very thorough bath if I don’t insist that Susan settle down for a few minutes.”
When the two women went inside their cabins, the men sat silent, watching a pair of herons fly over the blackness of the gentle water. A loon’s cry in the distance broke the hush.
“I think I’ll start a fire. The night air has a chill,” Tom offered.
“Good idea. It would be nice to sit out here for awhile. Maybe we can hold the wives off wanting supper if we keep pouring wine and stoking the fire.”
As Patrick was finishing his sentence, Olivia came rushing out, with Carol several feet behind, holding two plates of sandwiches.
“Well, look at you all dressed in your pajamas,” Patrick exclaimed.
She climbed onto his lap, cuddling close. “Look, Daddy, look at the stars.”
“Did you make a wish?”
She smiled, “Yes, Daddy. I wished we could stay here forever.”
“I made the girls sandwiches. I know they’re hungry and wouldn’t be able to wait until we eat.” Carol explained, setting the plates on the wooden table.
“Good, we were just saying we hoped we could postpone dinner awhile so we can enjoy our wine.”
Carrying chips and drinks for the girls, Jean joined the others. Susan and Olivia climbed into the chairs at the old, wooden picnic table.
“I wonder what the moose are doing,” Susan asked her friend. They giggled and each took a bite of peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Within minutes after they finished eating, both girls were asleep in their daddy’s laps.
“I’ll put her to bed and start the steaks,” Patrick said.
Early the next morning, after breakfast, Patrick and Tom loaded their fly-fishing gear and headed for the Kennebec River while Carol and Jean prepared to go antiquing.
Five shops and six hours later they came back to the camp dragging their treasures out of the back of the car. “Look at this vintage electric fan. The woman said it was probably made in the 1920’s, hence the lack of adornment and, of course, because it’s black,” Carol explained. “Don’t you think it will be cute in the sunroom?”
“Sure,” Patrick answered, without fanfare.
“Look what else we bought. I got this silver spoon set for our next little one.”
He looked quickly, smiling faintly, anxious to get back to cleaning fish.
“Don’t you think they are sweet?”
“Yes, that used to be a tradition in our family. It means the baby will have good fortune. I should have remembered that for Olivia,” he said, frowning. His mind raced back to a time when he did remember.
“I bought this for you, Tom,” Jean said, handing him a bronze lantern, “and these Nantucket lightship baskets for me.”
“You girls did well.”
“We’re having fish for dinner…our fish!” Patrick announced. “We need to get a few vegetables. You girls want to ride?”
Olivia and Susan jumped into Tom’s station wagon, ready for any adventure.
“See our new moccasins?” Olivia said, as both girls held their feet high in the air.
“Those are pretty. Where did you get them?” Patrick quizzed.
“Mommy bought them this morning.”
At the grocery store, the girls immediately spotted stuffed moose toys in a variety of sizes.
“Daddy, can we please have one? Please, pretty please,” Olivia begged.
Looking over at Tom, Patrick rolled his eyes while he reached for his wallet. “Can’t let the mothers get ahead of us, can we?”
Later after several hours of canoeing and a short ride on a seaplane, Patrick announced to the girls, “Quiet time. Grab your crayons. We’re going to sit outside and visit with your moms.”
The two couples talked as the sun slowly set over the mountain, the pristine waters glistening from the afterglow.
“What a great idea you had,” Carol said, patting Patrick gently on the arm.
He smiled, remembering how she had told him she thought him a little crazy when he had broken the news to her about the trip.