by Patricia Yager Delagrange
August, the last official month of summer. This is the time each year my family spends a week in a lovely vacation getaway in small-town Monte Rio on the Russian River in northern California. We love to kayak on the river and throw sticks for our two labs to fetch from waters that meander through the redwoods to the Pacific Ocean. We have two chocolate labs who weigh one-hundred pounds each and a terrier/chihuahua rescue dog, Shay D, who tops the scales at fifteen pounds.
This is where the story gets interesting. When you have dogs (plural) the best laid plans often go awry. Sometimes our doggy friends are too stubborn for their own good. They want what they want and they’ll do what they must in order to get it.
The yard at the home in Monte Rio has a fence that surrounds the back of the house on all sides with a gate for easy access to the short trek down the hill to the river. My two kids and their friends decided to go kayaking one afternoon and they brought our two water-loving labs with them. I was assigned the simple task of making sure Shay D had company where we both sat on the back deck.
I could easily hear the laughter and yelling from my kids and their pals as they paddled along the river, joking with each other in a race to see who would reach the rope swing first, a half-mile down the way. Book in hand, I listened as their voices grew more and more faint until once again silence reigned. While I turned the pages of my favorite novel I sighed, knowing full well the quietude would be short-lasting. And something niggled at the back of my mind.
I felt very alone and suddenly noticed Shay D was no longer laying on the deck next to my chair. Talk about an OMG moment! Shay is my daughter’s dog and I had most definitely shirked the one responsibility I had for the afternoon – making sure Shay was safe with Grandma at the house. Shay has never learned the inner meaning of the word, “Come” which made this particular situation worse than it needed to be. After yelling her name and running around every inch of the back fence it became obvious she was not anywhere near the backyard.
I ran down to the water’s edge and she wasn’t swimming around there either, and the kids don’t take their cell phones when kayaking. Forgive the pun, but I was “up a creek without a paddle”. What the heck was I going to do?
I prayed that after Shay mastered her escape, she had hopefully made it all the way down the river to where her mom was at the rope swing. The only thing left for me to do was wait. In this instance, patience was in short supply. I counted the minutes as they dragged by. An hour later I heard the group talking and laughing on their way to the dock and ran down to bring my daughter the news.
And there was Shay. Safe and sound in my daughter’s kayak. Shay D had made her way down the river (thankfully in the right direction) then exited onto the bank and jumped up onto a limb of an overhanging tree. Then she walked like a Nik Wallenda wannabe to the middle of the branch and waited. When Shay’s mom was on her return trip, there was Shay, patiently waiting to be picked up, perched above the river’s edge in the tree.
I hope my daughter will allow me to babysit her future kids.
With such a fondness for this beautiful retreat, I chose to begin my August novel, MADDY’S PHOENIX, there. Monte Rio, population 1,152, is where Maddy McCray grew up. She works long hours waitressing at a truck stop cafe and lives in a small cabin. As my story begins, she’s all alone in her backyard, burying the tiny baby she just miscarried.
A few days after this tragic moment in her life, she discovers an abandoned infant in a dumpster behind the restaurant and decides to keep the baby, naming her Judith.
Maddy takes her first trip out of Monte Rio and travels with her older friend Cheryl and baby Judith to the Bay Area to seek a better life. There she finds her adventures while working and scrimping and going to college to study to become a nurse.
Adventures aren’t the same for everyone. While my family gets busy making fond memories of our vacation in Monte Rio, Maddy’s sweet remembrances begin in the Bay Area in her new apartment in Oakland, working at her new job.
Will you share some sweet remembrances from your childhood vacations, Dear Readers? I’d love to hear them.