No friends like old friends

We moved to Deer Lake drive when I was Merlin’s age. That is hard to believe. It remains a mystical place, where children run free through the woods - are lost and found, apples and cherries are free for the picking and friends are behind every tree (or in them, or swinging from them.)
The entrance to the drive is tunnel-like with massive trees that create a solid canopy. When you come out the other side of the tunnel you are in a different world. I hear “ready or not, here I come!” and taste huckleberry. The smell that is unique to this spot: skunk cabbage, cedar, rotting chestnut leaves.
Memory blurs with reality as Jill comes down the steps. 6, 12 then 18 and 40 years old all at once. That big smile and a hug and kiss. Off we go further down the drive to the Pool’s house filled with more hugs and kisses. Chinese takeout and good stories.
We are not alone anymore. There are strangers now picnicking where a home once stood filled with friends. As the old homes give way to parkland, it is sad and beautiful to see time pass. It is a place that should be shared. It demands it. New memories for new friends.
But I will always taste huckleberries.