As a child, I was naive. I thought my family was happy. And I was happy. Although I didn’t know the meaning of a ‘white picket fence’ life, every day was filled with laughter and adventure.

I remember sitting on my sister’s lap, her strong legs pumping as she propelled the old wooden swing higher and higher, our breathless giggles tripping through the backyard. And the pond was a place of wonder, whether dipping beneath the cool waves or kneeling on shore, scooping tadpoles into an old Mason jar. Sitting amidst the bulrushes, blowing on a blade of grass or chewing on its sweet stalk, watching mallard ducks skim the surface while searching for a 4-leaf clover amongst the greenery was the patchwork of my childhood.

My brother William and I and my cousin Jolie could play for hours in the barn, swinging from the rope high atop fragrant bales of hay. Dust motes danced on shafts of sunlight as pigeons darted from rafter to rafter and we tried in vain to catch phantom barn cats who darted between the shadows.

And nothing felt as free as gliding full speed down the hill on the road beside our farm, balanced on our two-wheelers, wind whipping strands of hair across our cheeks, cool mist in the hollows, an abundance of pop bottles in the ditch, ripe for the picking.

Summertime meant weekend treks north to the cottage, slowly letting our lines out, watching the worm sink into the murky depths while leaning out over the side of Grandad’s faded aluminum boat. By day we explored the mysterious woods and as shadows lengthened we snuggled together on homemade bunkbeds, giggling and whispering as the lamplight swayed on the log walls, the smell of kerosene and wood smoke mingling with the aroma of damp earth, pine trees and burnt marshmallows.

 

Had I known the meaning of living ‘The White Picket Fence’ life, I would have sworn I was living it. Through the eyes of a child, playing with my brother every day, idolizing my sister Fiona, exploring our farm and the backroads, laughing with Mom was exactly that – the ideal, middle-class, country life.

And even when the fighting crept in and raised voices replaced the laughter. Even when I lay in bed, trying in vain to escape into my books as angry words stabbed in the background. Even when I gave in and understood Mom and Dad were not going to stay together, I still craved that next natural step, my lifelong dream ~ getting married and having children of my own. I didn’t think beyond. I wanted my own white picket fence, my own idyllic marriage and my own wonderful, happy children.

I was certain I would get it right. I, Maisie Duncan, was going to live happily ever after…

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