A short short story . . . from long ago

Often my mom would take us somewhere to dump us off with a relative during the summer. When I was young, maybe three or four, we went down to Florida to visit Aunt Ag and Uncle Bill, who lived in a wonderful brick house with an in-ground outdoor swimming pool. While I can’t see much of the house, I still remember the pool and dining room, the table that was there; the big sliding doors overlooking the pool from that room . . . the tall pines . . .

The pool was a beautiful blue, long and crystal clear. Aunt Ag and Uncle Bill were two older and kinder folks, gentle, sweet, loving and understanding. I’m glad I had relatives like that. But we rarely saw our relatives. Usually during the summer, when we were out of school.

My parents left me there with Aunt Ag and Uncle Bill. Every day Uncle Bill would swim laps in the pool, usually early in the morning when the air was still cool and before the humidity had kicked in.

On the third day, for the first and only time in my life, I became dreadfully homesick. I didn’t know what was wrong. I just hurt inside; it was like having a case of the flu.  I couldn’t eat and I remember sitting at that dining room table, crying my eyes out with Aunt Ag hovering around me and cooing sympathetic platitudes like a loving hen. I couldn’t of been very old; maybe six at the most. And I was so miserable I thought I was dying, or at least some sort of horrible disease. I can remember it quite clearly, how sad and miserable I felt, sitting at that table.

And then Aunt Ag explained it, crouching down on her knees next to the chair as I looked down at the table, inexplicably and mysteriously sobbing, tears in my eyes, my chubby child fists on the table.

“Why – you’re homesick, hon!” she cooed, petting my hair. “That’s all!  It’ll be all right! You’re just homesick!  Poor thing.”

I didn’t know what “homesick” was, but she sort of explained.

“You miss your house and friends, don’t you? It’s okay – I understand.  You miss them all. You’re parents will be back in a few days; they’ll take you home. You’ll feel better.”

And what she didn’t know was that she made me feel better right then, right away. I soon quit sobbing and went out to the pool, and Uncle Bill followed me and played with me gently in the water, treating me with love and care despite his gruff appearance (I was always sorta scared of him; he was such a old, white haired man with a gruff voice.) But after that I loved him, and of course, Aunt Ag, too.

And after that, too – I was always asking, when we got home:

“When are we going to Aunt Ag’s and Uncle Bill’s again? I wanna go back.”

Because home was nothing like there.

At home there was no love and kisses, no hugs or gentle petting of the hair, and if you got sick – well, you would get medical care, but that was it. Just enough to keep you alive.

Nothing like Aunt Ag & Uncle Bill.

Sometimes I found myself wishing I was their child, so I could swim in that long blue pool.

And sit at the table and listen to Aunt Ag’s gentle cooing; so unlike the harsh words I got at home. And have a gruff old man who loved me, rather than the person that I knew – an often absent father who was cruel when he was home.