Letter To America

Entry by: quietmandave

20th October 2016
Dear Claudia,

It must be twenty five years ago, possibly to the day. I remember we had made our way out from Boston to spend a few days in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. We were picking our way up the steep slope of Mount Greylock along a narrow trail flanked by sizeable saplings of beech and maple. You explained to me how these were taking over from the existing birch trees. I remember we joked about a mountain in transition.

I vividly recall turning a corner and emerging into the open, the chill October wind picking up strongly without the shelter of the trees. Before us stretched a carpet of the most beautiful reds, ambers and yellows. As the clouds raced over the sun, the leaves shimmered. 'The fall in New England is the most beautiful sight' you commented.

There was a bench, a few feet from the edge of a great cliff and we sat, staring for what seemed like the whole afternoon at this most incredible view. Finally you spoke.

'I refuse to stand by and let our children become part of the first generation of Americans to do worse than their parents.'

I turned to you, I remember thinking how powerful the words were, but I did not understand the context.

'Bill Clinton' you replied.

The name meant nothing to me. You could have been quoting one of your lecturers. You told me afterwards that my face was so blank that I almost lost my bearing as to where I was sitting.

'A Democrat' you added, and I saw the look of pride in your face. 'They think that Bush is unbeatable. Operation Desert Storm and all that. His approval ratings are eighty nine percent. I only ask how will history judge him? They say that no Democrat can win. I think Bill Clinton could win.'

I remember laughing. Looking back, I don't remember if Al Gore had withdrawn at this point, but I will forever associate Democrats with compassion after he put his son before politics during that election. And I will always think of you when I think of Bill Clinton, because you were right.

Later that afternoon we returned to the house where we were staying. You had made an impression on the owner's son, and we were invited to accompany him into the nearby woods. I think he was six, or maybe seven years old. He showed us the dam he had made across the stream 'to look like a beaver had done it', and it was quite convincing. Then he showed us his treehouse, nimbly climbing the rope ladder and laughing whilst we took it in turns to hoist ourselves up the ragged contraption, both scared our adult weight might tear the threads.

Finally in the fading light of dusk, the empty air now full of evening insects, he led us to the bottom of his favourite field. You bent down to his height, and asked him why this was his favourite field. 'I'll show you' he said with excitement in his voice, and ran along the edge of the grassy expanse until he reached the highest point. He watched whilst we panted our way up to him, and waited as we rested our hands on our knees, gasping for breath. Only when we had both regained our breath and stood straight did he explain.

'It's because you can roll all the way down to the bottom' and he lay on his side and spun away screaming. I don't think we ever considered not following him down, I don't remember which of us went first, but I do remember us both laughing more than we ever laughed in our short time together.

He was six or seven. He must be thirty one or thirty two now. I often wonder what happened to him. What his life became. I wonder what his life will become. I wonder what the future holds for him.

With love.