When I was eight years old, my aunt and uncle bought a big ranch-style house on six acres in the suburbs. About half of the land was soft green rolling lawn. (Infrequently, we got to drive the little tractor lawn mower. That was a thrill.) There was a swimming pool and tennis courts and an orchard, and the whole place backed up to the Highline Canal. There was a flagstone patio off the house that was elevated, and the southwest side of it looked out on Mount Evans and, depending on how clear the day was, Pikes Peak.
My cousin, siblings and I spent every summer hanging out at “Donna’s.” Sometimes we rode our bikes, but often my mother would drop us off, or stay and spend time with her beloved sister, while we spent long hours in the sun. It was our idea of summer camp.
Just inside the patio was a living room with a built-in bar, and a small refrigerator that was perennially stocked with small glass bottles of Coke and Seven-Up. We were supposed to limit ourselves to one a day. I don’t remember if that happened much.
When I think of that time and that place, I picture lying on the cool lawn, looking up at the sky and watching the clouds; or floating in the silent pool and dreaming; or climbing a big apple tree, finding the ripest apple, taking one sour bite and throwing it away to find a less sour version. We had “tea parties” on the bottom of the shallow end of the pool, and endlessly practiced our diving. We ate frozen treats.
There were lots of family gatherings on the patio. Chicken and spaghetti were staples. July 4th – Independence Day – was the pinnacle of holidays. My uncle took us to a fireworks stand a couple of days before. After we set off ours, we’d climb onto the roof and “ooh” and “ahhh” the public displays.
I was 37 when my aunt and uncle had passed and the house was sold. It has since been razed, making way for multiple houses. Sometimes I walk on the Canal so that I can imagine that it’s still there.