I can’t remember how to get to the hidden pond from the old cabin. It’s not something I need to know, of course. The cabin is long gone, hit by a hurricane and taken away in whole, but all the same, it was something I thought I would remember my entire life.
We spent our summers at the cabin when I was a child. Before the storm took it away, my parents talked abut having it torn down and rebuilt. It had been constructed before electricity and indoor plumbing had been invented, after all, and while they talked a big game to keep us from being afraid of the outhouse, I think they would much rather have preferred a cabin with modern amenities.
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that not everyone spent their holidays at a cabin built before the turn of the previous century, swimming in the lake and catching fish, chasing after bull frogs in the bog. It was what I had always done, though, and my older siblings before me, so it seemed perfectly natural. Along with that, of course, was the secret of the hidden pond.
My older brother discovered it, the summer my older sister was born. There had been talk of not going to the cabin that year, as she was only two months old and they worried about being away from modern conveniences with a baby that small. My brother, who had still been adapting to not being an only child, had fought hard for the vacation and was determined to enjoy it when he won. He spent every day out of the cabin, exploring places he had known, places he himself could barely walk, but as he put it, “At least I didn’t have to listen to her wailing.”
My sister would normally stick her tongue out at him during this portion of the story, and did, without fail, until she was in her twenties. By that point, of course, and even by the time I came along, he’d long-since gotten over the discomfort of having to share his parents, and had settled into the roles of older brother and eldest child as if he had always held them.
He was still looking for something to keep him special, however, the year he found the pond. Something that could make him feel the way he had when he had our parents’ undivided attention, and a secret was always good for that sort of thing. It wasn’t like a pond was an entirely unexpected find. In addition to the frog bog, the woodlands around the cabin had many dips and creases, enough you had to watch your step while hiking through them, and more than a few of those had gathered water enough to become a feature.
The hidden pond, however, was something special. This was no accidental creation made by a rolling hill and too much rain. This was a spring fed by deep clear water underground, with trees that parted to let in the sunlight, and depth enough a child could not reach the bottom even stretching their full length. It seemed, always, as though the air held a touch of magic, and that would have been reason enough to keep it a secret, even if my brother hadn’t been looking for something he could call all his own.