A long forgotten picnic by Solveig Werner
“Look mom, she looks just like me!” Cassy exclaimed with her finger pointing at a girl in the middle of a black and white photograph in a photo album with yellowed pages.
It was a photograph of a group of people sitting on and around a picnic blanket. The well-nourished men were holding wine glasses, and the women dressed in Chanel suits from the early 1900s. And in the middle of them was a young girl, who besides her clothing and big blond curls looked just like Cassy. It looked like a pure moment of bliss.
“Mom, who is, or well, I mean, who was that?” questioningly Cassy tore her bright blue eyes off her carbon copy looking back at her, to face her mother.
The ink underneath the photograph was smudged and, just like the memory of this event, had faded with time.
“Cassandra’s 13th birthday, 1906″, she deciphered with great difficulty, “I think that’s what it says, and for the rest, I don’t know.”
Open mouthed Cassy listened to her mother, “She, she had the same name too?” Her mother nodded. “But who was she Mom?” not letting her mother answer she continued, “Why did you never tell me about her?”
“Well, I believe that this is a picture of my great-grandmother, making her your great-great-grandmother. I have never seen this picture or photo album before, you know. I had no idea that she looked just like you. The best thing is that we’ll ask your grandparents at dinner tonight,” her mother proposed.
After what seemed like hours of hearing old family tales, Cassy sunk into her bed. Apparently, the girl in the picture and herself had many things in common, not just their name and appearance.
With the break of dawn Cassy woke, even though she was the first person to sleep in on a Saturday, there were some things that had kept her mind racing all night. Quiet as a cat, she snuck out of the house, with a clear goal in her mind, find that picnicking spot from the photograph. Her grandmother had mentioned a picnicking spot at the edge of the estate, apparently in the past there had been a nice clearing, but as no one went there any more the forest had grown thick and hostile.
The deeper she went into the woods, the uneasier she felt. The call of the cuckoo made her jump, but as it was the first of this spring, so she remembered to touched her silver necklace, and tripped over some roots.
Scrambling back onto her feet, she noticed a small archway between the trees in front of her. It was not a fancy arch, it was just two old trees that had grown in the shape of an arch. Intrigued she went on to examine the archway, at the moment that she found herself between the those trees the air was filled with static electricity, as if lightning was in the air.
She went on. Hot and humid air greeted her on the other side. The sound of cicadas was filling her ears. Over her shoulder Cassy could no longer see the spot where she had left spring behind and stepped into summer, the archway seemed to have disappeared.
What was that? Cassy heard an unfamiliar laughter and the sound of clattering dishes. Nearby it seemed, people were eating and talking. A picnic? Here? Impossible?
Brushing the moss from her messy uncombed hair and readjusting her now dirty shirt, she took her courage with all her might and went towards the unknown sounds. She stepped into a clearing and was greeted by a familiar sight, just that this time it was all in colour. There was a red and white picnic blanket spread out on the ground, there was a big wicker basket next to it, and a joyful company, wearing clothes from a different time, having a copious lunch. Just the girl from the middle of the photograph was missing.
“Cassandra!” A woman examined, as her eyes fell on Cassy. No one had ever called her by her full name, at least not in her memory. “Cassandra, why on earth are you dressed like a boy? And what have you done with your curls? I spent hours last night putting those rollers in!” if it wouldn’t have been for the man next to her, she would have gone on forever, Cassy thought.
“Charlotte, let her be”, he cut her short, and to Cassy he said, “come here, Cassandra, have some lunch with your uncle Jonathan, and don’t listen to your strict mother, today is your birthday, and you shall do what you wish to do”.
Cassy let herself drop onto the picnic blanket, she tried to pinch herself, but she wouldn’t wake up, she already was awake. “Don’t worry dear, you’ll get used to it, it runs in the family, I arrived here from 1742 at the age of twenty and before that I was a kid closer to your time, but I left there when I was 5 or so, I don’t recall everything now you see.” The man who claimed to be her uncle Jonathan whispered to Cassy, who looked at him in pure disbelief and horror.
“I think that it’s best you enjoy your birthday picnic before the ants attack your cake,” he said to her as he handed over a full plate.
Once Upon a Picnic by Cindy Scott
“It almost seemed impossible to believe. I mean when you look at it, it doesn’t look like it should be anything,” I said, pointing at a plate on the blanket that was spread across the ground. “You agree with me, right?”
The girl sat across from me and just kind of shrugged. She picked up a banana. “I am not the most knowledgeable about such things,” she said trying to ignore the plate and its content. “I had to pick up the plate to take it out of the basket. I got my look at the thing. Really you should know, I mean you mom made the damn thing!” She tugged at the banana’s stem, it cracked, and there was a definite smell of banana in the air. “I think you should try it, she said pointing with the banana and smiling. “Right now!” She took a bite of banana and nodded.
“Mariana, I don’t like trying new things. Not sure why it was included. I thought it was a desert or something.” I made a grand gesture at the banquet, “Besides Mom made far too much food. We could never hope to finish it all. This is a picnic and picnics need hot dogs and hamburgers.”
Mariana eyed her companion and shook her head. “Well, okay, soy dogs and veggie burgers too,” I added. I hated when Mariana reminded me she was a vegetarian. Hell at least she still like cheese and ice-cream. I took another look at the plate lying in the center of the blanket.” I never asked what mom made for our picnic. I just assumed that she included the regular stuff. I lean over to sniff the plate. There was a decidedly nutty smell to the plate. ”Well, we shouldn’t let it ruin our picnic, should we?”
“I am not going to be the first one to try it,” Mariana coughed as she laid down the peel on her plate and picked up a bottle of water. “I will stick with what I know, and she pointed to the pile of cheese sandwiches.”
“You’re the one who is always telling me that I need to try new things. Why are your afraid to try it?” I asked.”
“Well…yeah, okay. But you’re not trying it either and you are pickier than me. I like what I know and what’s in them.” Mariana smiled and picked up a sandwich, taking dainty little bites.
“That’s weak and not fair! You should try something different,” and I gestured at the plate sitting there, looking rather lonely in a room of hamburgers and cheese sandwiches. Mariana looked at me, as if to judge me and my choices. “Oh don’t look at me like that, Mari. Something different that doesn’t have meat in it. Like this,” and I held up the plate, leaning it towards her. “Yum?”
“Ah, no!” she said firmly.
“But, you don’t know if there is meat.” Mariana turned her head to watch a swooping aerial display of starlings and chickadees over the adjoining field.
I put the plate down and scooted over to her. “Fine! You don’t have to eat it, whatever it is, Mari.” I put my arm around her shoulders. “We can just enjoy this picnic that Mom made for us, promise?”
She was still looking away at the rolling fields of gray-green grasses, daisies, and buttercups. “Come on, I promise not to make big deal about what you eat, if you won’t make a big deal about what I eat. Also, plate is forgotten?”
She turned her head slowly and shoved me away, “Okay, Goober,” and picked up her water bottle again. “Now I am kinda curious to know what your Mom made for us.”
“We should leave it be,” I said.
“How about this, one taste for each,” she said. Mariana leaned forward and picked up the plate. “You know, we are acting like kids who don’t want to eat their spinach or pork chops.”
I laughed, “Yeah, in a way we are.” I picked up a plastic fork and gently scooped up the saucy and spongy thing from the plate. “Tell my Mom I love her,” I said is a dramatic tone. Another sniff and I could smell nuts and something like chocolate. It has to be a dessert. Maybe? “Okay, going to do it,” and I took a deep breath and opened wide.
Surprisingly, I didn’t die. Neither did Mari.