The house was silent except for the boys gently snoring. My head lay sideways on my pillow. I stared out the window at a silvery line making its way across the faint blue sky and wondered if I’d be able to sleep in this dawn-like lighting. A strong feeling of sadness gnawed away at me. It came about the time we started watching the slides and now I just couldn’t shake it. Next to me, Donna breathed quietly in her peaceful sleep. I thought of her photo albums – the treasury of her time here. In the early days of our relationship, she wanted to talk about Finland all the time. I never cared. I could not relate. Slowly her photo albums began to gather dust. Eventually they were stashed in a cabinet in the garage.
Maybe I was jealous of her for having the courage to come over here. Shari always said Donna was a shy child. So why on earth would she fly all this way at only sixteen? She was Alex’s age – too young to travel alone and live with an unknown family – in an unknown country. I remember asking her why she picked Finland. She told me “nobody had ever been there.”
I’ve always known Donnas family to be functional and loving. I assumed the brief separation of her parents was just a glitch – a hiccup with little effect on that fortress of a family. My parents broke up gradually, so I had time to process things. At Donna’s house the sledgehammer fell unexpectedly. The secure world she knew suddenly lay in shambles when Lee announced there was another woman in his life. He moved out leaving Shari alone with four kids. Donna and her sister had to step up and take care of their younger brothers. Shari returned to work and told the kids they’d might have to sell the house.
Within a year Donna’s parents reconciled, Lee returned home. After being forced to grow up, Donna was expected to go back to being one of the kids.
Now I realize why this place meant so much to her. Finland wasn’t the faraway and meaningless place I’d thought it was. Here, she found a safe, beautiful place to escape and find herself.
This was her cabin in Oregon.