There was a storm brewing that night, the wind fierce off of the Great Lake, stirring things in the trees, stirring things in me.
In the bottom of one trunk I found something among things gleaned from my brothers belongings that I had not had much time to go though. And it brought me to tears - because of this photo which is always on display. Look carefully to the left and right of my brother to the two little creatures, dressed for the winter.
How little we knew that one day that well worn photo would be held by a magnet on an ancient refrigerator, there as the snow fell down like the gift of grace on the frozen ground, there in the days of honor and play, before we knew anything of selfishness, greed and the uncaring faces of forgetful men.
We played with them in quiet solitude, not because we thought others would make fun of us for "playing with dolls" but because they were an outlet for imagination. They weren't "dolls" - they were Vikings, bigger than all of our other toys, even G.I. Joe standing down in their presence. Their hair was tangled with the imagined salt of the sea, their countenance a grin in the face of any adversity. They were born, not of woman or the earth, but by magic and myth. Others might not have understand, so they were our solitude, that was also our saving as Mom grew sicker and the waters grew colder.
My brother and I were perhaps unusual compared to many siblings as he was genuinely my best friend, and not just my older brother. We'd play in the yard, in the woods, and even better, at the coast where we had a small cabin, running out by the waves until the sun sank round and blazing into the crest of waves as if they eroded that luminous circle with their power, until only darkness and the sound of the ocean remained. When we weren't playing together we were playing with Craig - his best friend for life, who lived next door to us, a brother not in blood, but in spirit.
He and I rarely squabbled. He held me on those rare occasions I cried and he protected me from any neighborhood bully, who knew better to invoke the wrath of a tall redhead who would grow up to be a giant of a man, a gentle giant who handled those things he loved as if made of glass.
But I had forgotten what became of those two trolls, there in that photo. Not long after those days, as we left childhood, I never saw them again. Like many things of childhood, they just disappeared. The earth takes some - toy soldiers buried in the yard with full honors. Others are simply cast off as young adults, not yet realizing how precious those little things are until we reach an age where the earth calls its account for all things we hold dear, taking them away before we are ready.
They were not Vikings or adventurers, they were simply toys from which our adventures sprung forth, daring days of glory in the heat and the cold. But rather than be tossed out with the rest of the toys, my brother had carefully put them away for me to find someday among his things that were left to me on his passage.
As I gathered the box to place them back into safekeeping, I blink in the diffused light, as shadows ebb and flow outside the window. I look out to the East, to the lake and in my mind's eye see a shadowed vessel manned by a redheaded shade, there beyond the horizon, who sends me a wave of greeting as he disappears into a soundless gale.
But not for now, now is for living and remembering.
The trolls almost seemed to stir there in the play of light, as if remembering all of those days of joy and freedom. So many memories there - the laughter of a young girl, and the brave shout of a boy, running his plastic warrior up to the top of the hill, where we are stronger than the oceans, Vikings rule, and imagination never dies.
I carefully put them away, as I raise my hand into the gales of the east and wave goodbye.