The dry grass tickled her skin as she lay on the bank of the lake. Stars peeked out of the darkness, with only a touch of pink as evidence that the sun was ever there. Life teemed above her in the trees and all around her as the june bugs buzzed through the night air. With the vast expanse of the lake before her and the promise of night, she thought.
She thought about the peacefulness in which she sat, only feet away from a crackling bonfire, encircled by family members chattering away about days gone by. She thought how nice it would have been to have lived those days, but she was far younger than even her closest cousin. She lived a life separate from theirs, though there were no strangers in her family. She grew up, not with the family, but after, always catching the end of the good times (though that is not to say her life was not good in itself). The stories of which they spoke only tickled the edges of her memories, almost as if the pictures were painted in the translucent hues of watercolor rather than the bold colors they were lived with.
She thought about how unfair it was that she had to live a life after the rest. A life where she could only laugh because the stories were funny, not because she remembered them. A life where she should have spent summers playing with her cousins, but instead she spent them walking down the aisles to their weddings and babysitting their children. None of these things were unpleasant, but doesn’t every young child wish for playmates that fit into their life more than the children next door?
She thought about how her life could have been different, had she been born sooner. She would know what it was like to spend weeks at the lake sharing a bedroom made for four with eight other friends. She would understand the jokes told that are now the center of family stories. She would have found solace in experiencing life at the same pace of those around her, commiserating in the trials of growing up.
It was not, however, her fortune to have all this. Instead, she was given something greater. She was given more than a mother, father, aunts and uncles. She was given friends who, despite their age, treated her the same and raised her in their own way. They were young enough to remember the phases and passages of life and because of this, could give her advice on living life a life after theirs.
Perhaps, she thought, a life lived after was not so terrible. A life lived after was still full of mistakes, but it was one lived well.
With all these thoughts running through her head, she sat up for a moment and let her mind settle. Giving one last glance across the black lake, she stood and turned towards the fire to hear the stories of the lives lived before.