Man In the Mirror Redux

Last month my wife, Emmaline and I rented the old mountain

cabin where we have stayed nearly every year for the past 27 years.

The cabin is located deep in the woods. This year we also rented the

cabin (capacity 12) next door. Our kids and grandkids joined us for a

family get together.

One of the reasons we love going to the cabin is that it looks

just as did when we first stayed there back in 1989. The cabin is miles

from town. It stands above a boulder-strewn river that begins

somewhere high in the tree-covered Appalachians. A wall-sized

outside window looks straight down from the cabin onto a narrow

river. The cabin is on a single floor with partitions for the livingroom

bedroom and bathroom, which is is at the far end of the cabin.

Emmaline had gone to get groceries. I was alone and it was in

the bathroom mirror that I saw, instead of my own face, the face of

the Little Dutchman—an old man with a long beard and a tricornered

hat. I panicked when I saw him. I ran back to the front

room. But there he was, standing on the kitchen table dressed in

antique Dutch garb—a cloth jerkin strapped several times around

the waist, breeches decorated with rows of buttons down the sides

and bunched at the knees. He looked like he had just stepped out

of the story of Rip Van Winkle. That’s when my first adventure with

him began.

Back then the Dutchman and his pals, with their beer steins

foaming, and I with my foaming stein of root beer, took a bumpy

ride down the river, floating on truck tire inner tubes.

I thought later that the whole episode was a figment of my

imagination. I told myself, “If you want to avoid dreaming about

bearded Rip Van Winkle characters, then don’t eat onions and bleu

cheese at bedtime.” Little did I guess.

Last month Emmaline and I and all the family made the trip

and gathered in the front room of the cabin. We wanted to toast the

cabin and our many happy visits there. We bought a whole bunch

of plastic wine glasses and two magnums of non-alcoholic

champagne. Just as we raised our glasses there was a knock at the

door.

“There’s no one at the door.”

I had a premonition.

“Look down,” I said.

“Wow!”

“It’s the Dutchman, right?”

“And all his pals.”

I handed Emmaline my glass and walked to the door. The Little

Dutchman and about a dozen others were on the porch gesturing

and pointing down the wooden stairs. Half a dozen inner tubes were

moored to the cement landing below. The Dutchmen wanted

everyone to join them on a float.

“Come in and have a drink, first,” I said. After a moment’s hesitation,

they all trooped inside and stood in a semi-circle. Someone handed

them glasses of ersatz champagne.

“To the cabin!” I said.

“To the cabin!”

“To the Dutchmen!”

“To the Dutchmen.”

The little Dutchman touched my thigh and gestured. I

recognized the gesture immediately.

“To the River!” I said.

“To the River!”

There being no fireplace, and the glasses being plastic,

everyone simply put them on the table and walked to the door.

“To the River!” someone shouted, in an entirely different

context.

“Don’t trample the Dutchmen,” I yelled. But I needn’t have

worried. My nimble little pals were already half way to the landing.

Emmaline and I paused in the living room for a moment and

embraced.

-30-

Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the  Forth Dementia available on Amazon.

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