Emory packed lightly for her trip to Aunt Sally’s in Oklahoma. It was only a week, and how many shirts does one need, if you aren’t going any place special? (she would need a dress, to play her clarinet for church, however). Em was looking forward to seeing her cousins again. Too many years fly by too quickly, and despite the photographs (what did we ever do without the internet? Oh yes, we mailed them!) and phone calls, it’s just not the same as playing games and telling family stories at the table. The years flying by made Emory think of her swan babies having flying practice, while she’s away. She’ll have to tell her cousins Matt and Jess all about her swan friends.
The plane ride was wonderful, and from her seat by the window, over the wing, Emory saw the sun sinking slowly beneath the clouds, which looked like huge puffs of cotton candy (“I wonder if all the fairs are over now,” thought Em. “That would be such fun”). So the week passed quickly, as vacations do. There was corn in the field to bring in and shuck (those pesky little hairs were so annoying!). Goats and chickens to be fed, horses to ride and water. Matt and Jess had been eager to introduce Em to their house rabbit Hunter, who quickly nuzzled his fuzzy way into Emmy’s heart. She had no idea rabbits were so smart and funny and sweet, and when she got back home, she surely wanted to adopt some of her own!
On the way to the airport, Matt and Jess made Em promise she’d send a picture of the young swans flying. They thought it was so cute, how Emmy still thinks of them as babies. “They still make that squeaky noise they made when they were cygnets!” Em cried in her defense. “No matter how big they get, they’ll always be my babies.”
Emory’s parents picked her up at the airport and heard all about her visit on the ride home. They wanted to take Em out to eat, and, while she had missed them, and wanted to hang out with them, she also wanted to pull on her muck boots and run to the pond! Of course she decided to wait, and spend the time with her mom and dad. Emory’s bunny idea wasn’t met with wild enthusiasm by her father, but her mother was delighted, and that usually meant she would work her charms and melt her dad’s resistance. She told them about her chess game with Matt, and how he made her laugh so much she couldn’t think, and that’s how he beat her. “He got that from his father,” Emory’s dad said, and they all had a good laugh (Aunt Sally’s husband, Uncle Ralph, recently passed away, and he is dearly missed and always loved, especially by his brother).
The next morning, Em got dressed and grabbed the bucket of corn and oats, so eager to get to the pond, she practically ran the whole mile. The swans spotted her from a distance, and began flying together, to come meet her. Emory was so excited, she yelled, “You can FLY!!! Just like your mom and dad! I’m so proud of you! My babies are growing up.” The young ones beamed beneath Em’s praise, and after everyone said, “I missed you!,” Cami wondered if Emmy had brought them a surprise. “As a matter of fact I have!” Em said delightedly. “I snipped this Willow just for you, from a very old and lovely tree on my Aunt Sally’s farm!” Swans love the tasty leaves, (rabbits do, as well), but the tree at William’s pond had become diseased and had to be cut down. That was a very sad day. Everyone wished that it might have been saved. It was like losing a good friend.
After a wonderful snack and their usual breakfast, the swans were too full to fly. “It’s ok,” Em said cheerfully. “You don’t have to entertain me. I’m very impressed already, at your mastery in only a week!” (and on the walk home, saddened, Emory realized the young ones would soon rise up on their great wings, and let the winds carry them away to a brand new adventure. A new pond, a new home, and a love which would last them a lifetime. But not before Winter. They wouldn’t be quite ready to survive on their own yet. One day, Emory will also leave her familiar home, her friends and family, to make her way in the world. “It’s a sad yet exciting thought,” mused Emory, “this leave taking. Part of me wishes I could live at home forever. But no matter where I travel, all my loves come with me.”