Elk Christmas (Part 5)

The great assemblage commenced and somewhere in the basement of her childhood memories, Danielle recalled that beginning a puzzle properly meant finding the straight edges first and building the outline.

So that’s what the family did, and, as they searched for pieces, they talked and talked. They worked together. Their hands bumped into each other as they reached across the table. Crater Lake begin to take form with astonishing speed. As the image became clearer, one of the boys said he’d like to see it. Danielle said it was a plan for next summer. Maybe they’d rent a motor home!

Two hours later, Crater Lake in all its magnificent splendor materialized in front of the family. They all high fived and then ate pizza. The girl wanted to tackle another puzzle, Mt. Hood, but the rain had stopped and Danielle wanted to get on the beach. She suggested it and the kids were game. They bundled up and walked out of the cabin, down a path that ran through the golf course and into some sand dunes. They traversed the dunes and emerged on a beach littered with driftwood. Among the driftwood stood at least a dozen forts of all shapes and sizes. One of them was even a two-story mansion.

The boys saw the forts first and exclaimed their shock and joy. They began running toward them and the girl gave choice.

Danielle realized she hadn’t seen her children run since they were toddlers. It was an awesome sight. She started running toward the forts, too.

The kids ran to every fort and ducked inside, darted out, fell down, laughed, and marveled at the ingenuity of of the structures and how some were decorated with kelp, crab pot floats, fishing line, feathers, shells and rope. One fort even had a little tin box with paper and pens inside that invited visitors to leave a fort message. All the kids did. They thanked the fort builders and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and there wasn’t a single typo!

Danielle joined them in their fort adventures. She left a message, too. It said something about starting over, right here, right now. She threw in three exclamation points for good measure.

The oldest boy suggested they build a fort. What a perfect activity for Christmas Day and it costs absolutely nothing in Oregon! So the family found an old blown-out fort and began building together, hoisting, interlocking, steadying pieces of wood so that the structure rose and became sturdier by the minute. As the family built, the talked and worked out architectural issues.

A kind of a corral fort with an arched entrance resulted from the labor. They made a bench for someone to sit down inside. They draped the fort in kelp and tucked feathers inside the slivers of the wood. The girl gathered some white rocks and designed a walkway leading to the fort. The young boy found a washed up shore pine and planted it in front of the fort. It was a natural Christmas tree harvested from the ocean. Danielle etched a message in the sand near the tree: Decorate me!

The family stood together in front of the fort, sweating, tired, hungry, thirsty, beaming. They needed a family portrait. But there wouldn’t one because everybody forgot to bring their phones.