This is the photo of Stonehenge that set my grandfather’s heart ablaze.
There are variations of my grandfather’s story, but I prefer this one. Mostly, because it came from my great-aunt Sophie, and she never said anything that wasn’t true. Or at least, true enough. She was the keeper of our stories. From births to deaths, weddings to wakes; new jobs, new homes, new dreams, if it involved a Webster, Aunt Sophie wrote it down. That job fell to me a few years ago when, at the age of eighty-two, she fell off her bicycle, hit her head, and died.
(Let that be a lesson for you — You are never too old to wear a helmet. Aunt Sophie would back me up on this if she could.)
This story began fifty years ago when Grandpa Webster had a dream. In it he dreamed that his ancestors had been druids, and this pleased him immensely. The whole wise man, mystical nature thing. He thought it might be true. But, when he told others about it, they said — Don’t be daft, you fool. It’s just a dream. So he shut up about it.
Still. A wisp of the dream remained.
Shortly after that grandpa bought a box. He was fond of auctions, and even fonder of bidding on blind boxes – blind in the sense that you had no idea of the contents but were willing to chance that there might be something of value inside. In this instance, the thing of value was the tinted photo of Stonehenge you see above.
How that photograph took hold of my grandfather. He kept it on his nightstand. It was the last thing he looked to before he closed his eyes, and the first thing he saw upon waking, his wife coming in a poor second. But she was patient because she loved him. And she knew about his druid wish. For even a wisp of a dream carries a sweet, smoky odor that a good spouse can smell. She went to the public library and brought back a book — The Stonehenge Myth — and set it next to the photo on my grandfather’s side of the bed.
My grandparents owned a small farm at the time. Eighty acres on which they grew corn and wheat and raised chickens, sheep, and some dairy cows. (My father grew up on this farm and knew before he was eighteen that he wanted something else in life, but that’s another story, for another time.) Four months after his finding the Stonehenge photo, six months after the druid dream, my grandfather dragged home his first big rock, a four foot by two foot slab of stone that he slid off the back of a flat-bed trailer at the end of the sheep field. The neighbors wondered what use could be made from a stone that size, but my grandmother had an inkling.
Over the next six months, my grandfather brought home twelve more boulders and stone slabs of various sizes. He paid his four strapping boys and their friends to help him arrange the stones in a circle. He borrowed a backhoe and a front end loader. He carried the Stonehenge photograph in his shirt pocket, and when people asked him what in blue blazes was he trying to build, he pulled out the photo and handed it to them.
This, he said. I’m building this. It’s iconic.
Some people thought he said ironic.
Over the years, my grandfather and his folly became legend. There were stories told that he danced drunken and naked in the moonlight among those stones. Aunt Sophie said that wasn’t true. She said that he simply found comfort in sitting in that stone circle while the sun rose or set and he could think about the day ahead of or behind him. It brought him peace.
For my father and his brothers, it brought them something else. There were more than a few times when they and their friends dared one another to strip and whoop it up around the rocks. For them, it was a level of coolness others didn’t have.
We were the only kids with Stonehenge in our back yard.
Fifteen years ago, as my grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary approached, their sons wanted to gift them with a trip to England, to see the real Stonehenge, they said. My grandparents turned them down. Why spend all that money, when they were happy with the one they had?
I’m no fool, my grandfather told his boys.
It was the truest thing I ever heard him say.
The Webster family Stonehenge standing in the sheep pasture on the farm. The stones are not as big as they look, certainly not like those at the actual Stonehenge, but they’re good enough for dancing around in the moonlight.
n.b. This is not a true story. It is fiction. I wanted to see if I had a photo that was iconic to me (for the Weekly WP Writing Challenge), and then make up a story to fit the picture. Also, I have been to the real Stonehenge. I wasn’t allowed to dance around the stones, though, naked or otherwise.