Silver Oaks is a magical place…
Jill shut the door of cabin 22 behind her, and squealed with excitement! At 14 she was grown up enough to have a cabin to herself, and not have to share with Mum and Dad anymore. Her younger brothers, Ben and Don, had moaned that they had to share a cabin, and said they should have one each too, but Jill didn’t think they meant it, they just liked to argue.
She quickly unpacked and hung her clothes in the dresser, then looked around to see where she could hide her drawing paper and pencils. Her brother had seen one of her drawings once, and had laughed at her; she pretended not to mind, but it hurt her, and she didn’t want to run the risk of them hurting her again. As the eldest of the children she took her responsibilities seriously, but she often felt sad and that no one understood her.
Mum and Dad worked hard, made sure that everything was perfect at home, and took them on wonderful vacations like this one. She loved her parents, but as she slowly grew into her teenage years, she felt that they didn’t understand her need for artistic expressions. She worked hard at her academic studies, was a reasonably good student, and when she had taken her report card home last year, she was praised for her B in math and B+ in English. No mention was made of Art, for which she got an outstanding. For her the conclusion was clear; art was not something that had any value, and she should ignore her feelings and work harder on her other studies.
Jill tried to convince herself time after time that all this art stuff was a waste of time and energy. But every time she put away her drawings, the yearning inside her grew, and in the quiet moments of the night, she dreamed of drawing and art and longed for the time when she could steal a few minutes with her paper and pencils. She hoped to be able to get some drawing done in secret during this time away, and that this would help her “get over” the strange obsession she had.
She picked up the journal on the table next to the bed and flicked through to read what others had said. A couple of entries mentioned a bridge over a stream, and that interested her; maybe that would be a good spot for drawing.
Without further thought, she gathered up her paper and pencils and headed out. Only when she had been walking for 10 minutes did it occur to her that maybe she should have told someone where she was going. Then she realized she’d left her phone back in the cabin, but, she decided, it was too late to go back now. In any case, she was sure she’d return before anyone noticed her absence.
It was about that time that Ben and Don were getting ready to go to the beach. The sea was a 15-minute walk away, 10 if you ran, and the boys were keen to get there as soon as possible. Just as they were ready to leave Mum told them to knock on their sister’s door, and see if she wanted to go as well. They grumbled a bit; Jill was OK, but she was a girl, and always wanted to stop and look at things along the way. So when they knocked and got no answer, they weren’t too upset.
“Should we go and tell Mum?” Ben asked his brother.
“No, we were told to knock, and we did,” Don answered. “Now let’s see who can get in the water first!”
With that, he was off at a fast run, and Ben had to scramble to catch up. By the time they had arrived at the beach, breathless and excited, they had forgotten all about Jill and just concentrated on having fun.
About an hour later, Joan tapped on her daughter’s door too. She didn’t get an answer, so she peeked around the door, and saw that Jill had unpacked but was not in the room. Mum smiled, thinking that Jill had gone off with the boys to the beach. She did worry about Jill sometimes, just recently she seemed to be preoccupied, and always having her nose in a book, or staring off into the distance. Jill was a sensible, hardworking girl and was doing well at school, but Mum felt that something was troubling her daughter. She was hoping that this time away from the regular day-to-day routine would bring her out of it, whatever the “it” was.
She went back to her cabin and found her husband busily cleaning the barbecue grill, ready for tonight’s supper. Bill was another one who could not stop working, she thought, not for the first time. She was proud of him, of course, and amazed at the hours he put in at the factory. Still, it would be nice if he would relax a bit sometimes, not everything had to be about work.
Meanwhile, although Jill had started down a path that she thought led to the stream, somehow she came out to the sand dunes. She tried to re-trace her steps, but everything looked the same, and she was sure she had been going around in circles. She seemed to have been walking for hours, and had to admit she had not the faintest idea where she was or which way to go. She was trying not to panic, and fighting back tears, when she spotted someone sitting on top of a sand dune, with a scrapbook on her knee. The woman looked preoccupied with what she was doing, but Jill was desperate, so she approached the stranger.
“Excuse me,” Jill said as she got closer.
“Oh! Sorry, you startled me! I was concentrating so much I didn’t notice you!” The woman got over her shock, and smiled at the young girl, nervously standing in front of her. “What can I do for you?” she asked.
“I think I’m lost and,” Jill’s voice trailed off, as she realized that the woman had been sketching the sea scape in front of her. “Wow, that’s really good. I like to draw too, in fact, I was going to look for somewhere to sketch when I got lost.”
“Oh, I’ve been lost a lot in my life, and I’ve found allowing yourself to be rescued is the best part. I’m June by the way, what’s your name?”
“Jill,” she replied, taking an immediate liking to June, even though she didn’t really understand what she had just said.
“Well, Jill. I’m fairly new in these parts, but if you are lost I know just the person to help. There’s a cafe over that rise there, and Dorothy will know what to do, plus we can get some pop and a cake if you’d like that?”
So saying June got her papers together, offered her hand to Jill, and together they set off. As they walked they talked about drawing and art, and somehow Jill found herself expressing for the first time to an adult her secret desire to be an artist. She showed Jill the drawings she had with her, and in no time they were at the cafe. Dorothy quickly took charge, gave Jill a drink and a large slice of homemade chocolate cake, before calling Leo at Silver Oaks to let him know she’d found one of his guest.
Just about that time, Dad had the barbecue hot and was ready to start cooking.
“Where are the kids?” he asked.
“They all went down to the beach; I’m sure they will be back soon,” Mum reassured him. Just then Don came running along the pathway, closely followed by Ben, who was eager to show off the dead fish he had found on the shore.
“Where’s Jill?” Mum asked, looking back along the path.
“Oh, she wasn’t with us,” Ben said.
“What do you mean?” Mum said, suddenly concerned.
“Well we knocked as you said, but she didn’t answer, so we went without her.”
“Oh, I expect she’s back in her cabin enjoying the quite,” Mum said, “I’ll just go check on her.”
Within a few moments, she was back. “She’s not there, and her phone is on the counter. Dad, where is she? Where’s my Jill?” Mum was trying desperately to keep calm, despite thoughts of her baby girl being abducted and murdered, or worse, while she had just been enjoying the sun.
“Now, let’s get this straight,” Dad took over, “exactly who saw Jill last and where?” He quickly found out that the last anyone had seen his daughter was when she had taken her bags to her cabin, several hours ago.
“OK, there is no need for anyone to panic” Dad tried to reassure his increasingly tearful wife and overexcited sons. “Mum, you go to the office and let them know what’s happened, and then came back here in case she turns up. I’ll go and search the woods. Don, Ben, you go back along the beach road, maybe she followed you, and you missed her. Call me if you find her, but come straight back here if you don’t, is that clear?”
The boys said they understood and set off, calling Jill’s name every few minutes, Mum ran to the office, and told Leo that her daughter was missing. Leo was just trying to reassure her, and at the same time suggesting that they inform the police, when the office phone started ringing.
Leo answered it, and then smiling said “Did you say your daughter was Jill? Not to worry she’s been found safe and well, she’s at the Fisherman’s cafe, and if I know the owner there, she’s been treated to home made cake.”
Dad had ventured into the woods, not sure exactly what to do, but determined to do something, anything. He loved all his family more than life itself, but Jill had a special place in his heart as his first born child and only daughter. They had been close when she was younger, his “little princess”, but as the years went on he felt her drifting away. It was inevitable, of course, he told himself, kids grow and move on, but still it felt like he was getting too old as she grew more independent.
He met a few people coming the other way, but none of them had seen a young girl, and his grip on the composure he had tried to show the family was slowly ebbing away. He had reached a bridge over a stream and was unsure what to do next. He was not a religious man, but as he stood there, he suddenly found himself praying with all his heart that his little girl was safe. He called Jill’s name for the hundredth time, and was about to start along the path again when his phone rang. When he heard the news he started sprinting towards the cafe; he was going to save his little princess.
“Oh Jill, thank God you’re safe. We were so worried!”
Bill gathered up his daughter and held her in an embrace filled with love and concern.
“Are you OK? What happened? How did you get here?”
As the story came out, he thanked Dorothy and Mary over and over, and offered to pay for the food that Jill had eaten.
“Oh no, that’s OK m’dear!” Dorothy said, “Seeing this little lady safe and well is all the payment I need”
“And your daughter was showing me some of her drawings,” Mary added, “she’s very talented, you must be very proud of her.”
It was Bill’s turn to be confused, he looked at Jill, who was blushing and trying to hide her scape book.
“I am very proud of Jill” he said, “although she hasn’t shared many of her drawings with me lately.” He gently took the papers from Jill and looked through them. “These are good, aren’t they? But then I remember your art teacher giving you great marks on your last report. I just thought you were more interested in Maths and Science; at least, that’s all you talked about.”
“Oh, it’s nothing” Jill was embarrassed and just wanted Dad to stop looking at her work, but at the same time, she glowed from his words of encouragement “I know it’s silly; I need to study and get qualifications so I can get a proper job, just like you and Mum. It’s just that, well, this is what I love to do. I love sketching, drawing, all that art stuff. But it’s stupid, I know.” She blushed and looked away, as her father sighed and got serious.
“Stupid?” he said. “These aren’t stupid; these are excellent. I tell you what would be stupid, and that would be not pursuing your talent and your passion.”
“But Dad, how can I make money doing this? If you’ve taught me one thing, it’s the importance of hard work and diligence.”
“And you think being an artist isn’t hard work?” Dad looked at his young daughter, no longer the baby he had once held in his arms, not quite a woman yet, but always his princess. A thousand memories came to mind all in an instant, and he smiled at Jill.
“Let me tell you a story.” He started, “when I was a young kid, maybe a year or two younger than you are now, I dreamed of being an actor. I just loved the whole thing about being on stage, I was in all the drama at school, and nagged my Mum and Dad to take me to all the plays that were on anywhere in town. When I was in my last year before leaving school, my English teacher said I had talent, and suggested I consider going to drama school.
“It wasn’t anything I’d ever thought about, but once the idea was in my head it grew, and soon I wanted that with all my heart and soul. It was the only thing I dreamed about as the school year came to a close, and I was busy looking at all the options of where I could go.
“It was early June, just as the school year was coming to an end time that my Dad, your Grandpa that you never knew, passed away. It was sudden, he had a heart attack, one day he was there, and the next gone. My world turned upside down, and your Grandma, well she was struggling to bring us kids up and keep us fed. As the eldest of the boys, I decided that I needed to get a job and earn some money. Ma tried to talk me out of it, but I was determined, and she was grateful for the help I could give, and I told her that I’d go to drama school when I could.”
Jill looked with new eyes at her Dad. She had always thought of him as someone so down-to-earth and practical, and now it seemed that he had dreams too.
“And then I met your Mum and we got wed, and you kiddos came along.” He smiled gently at his daughter. “Not that I would have changed any of it, but still, sometimes in the middle of the night, I wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to drama school.”
“But the point is” Dad took a deep breath, got to his feet, and held out his free hand to Jill, the other one still holding tight to her drawings, “I’m not going to let you throw away the chance of using this talent of yours. Stop double guessing yourself, and be proud of yourself, I am!”
Just then a car drew up outside, and Joan and the boys tumbled out and started to run to the cafe. Jill was hagged and held and felt so loved and protected. But even better than all that, she knew that she could talk to her Dad about anything now. The future seemed to be broadening out from the narrow confines she had seen it in.
For the rest of the week she spent many happy hours with her pencils and paper, and when it was almost time to pack up and go home, Dad drove into town and brought her a portfolio case to carry her pictures. As she scanned the cabin one last time before leaving, she saw the journal, and just had enough time to scribble an entry.
Cabin 22 Journal.
This is the first time I get to stay in a cabin by myself, and that means I get to write in the journal too! I am 15, well, almost, I will be later this year, and I am Jillian Mary Robertson, I have two older brothers, who are a pain, but I love them anyway. Mum and Dad are here too in one of the other cabins, and Ben and Don have one to themselves. Oh! Ben and Don are my brothers, and I’m called Jill, not Jillian, that is just my given name.
Oh! I want to say so much, but this is all I have time to write. This is a magical place, and something about the magic has rubbed off on me this week! I have discovered that I am not a misfit, that I have Talent, and that it is OK to dream. My Dad is a fantastic man, who gave up so much for us and I love him more than anyone in the whole world.