The Enchanted Door

by Erica Scurr

Memory is the enchanted door that opens into the past.

Two little girls finished their egg sandwiches sitting on a picnic blanket on the banks of a stream under the watercolor blue sky of an English summer afternoon.

“Mummy, can we go and paddle in the water?” Jane asked.

“If you try not to get too wet or dirty,” Mrs. Alderman replied. Mrs. Alderman was a teacher and often took us on adventure trips during the summer holidays.

Jane leaped up, tucked the skirt of her summer dress into her knickers and ran off towards the stream. I followed her lead. We sat in the grass to remove our shoes and socks, then gingerly stepped and slipped down the muddy bank.

“Ooh, I can feel the mud all gooey between my toes,” I complained.

“Come over here. It’s stony and so clear you can see the bottom.” Jane shouted, beckoning me further into the cold water.

On the far bank light breezes stirred tendrils of weeping willow branches in the reflecting surface. In the meadow beyond, brown and white cows grazed in the sunshine.

“Look,” said Jane, “there’s a hole in the bank over there. Do you think that’s where Ratty lives?”

“Ratty?” I said.

“Yes, you know, from ‘The Wind in the Willows.’” She waded closer to the hole. “Mummy said the man who wrote ‘The Wind in The Willows’ lived here. Maybe this is where he got his idea and wrote the story.”

“Oh,” I said, impressed that someone famous had lived in Pangbourne. “I didn’t know. Maybe that’s Toad then,” and I pointed out a frog about to leap into the stream.

“No, that’s a frog, silly. Frogs and toads are different.” Jane was clever.

On the way home, as Mrs. Alderman turned at the corner opposite the church to drive up Pangbourne Hill, I asked, “Did the man who wrote ‘The Wind in the Willows’ really live here?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Kenneth Grahame lived in Church Cottage, the one with the blue door, right there,” and she pointed as we drove past.

Seventy years later when I walked along the Thames Path, I passed through Pangbourne again and remembered that long-ago summer afternoon. By then I knew that Kenneth Grahame had spent his final years in Church Cottage across the street from the parish church. But that was long after he published his famous children’s book. So his inspiration didn’t come from my childhood stream, but from the early years, he spent with his grandmother near the River Thames at Cookham. His classic story was inspired by his own journey through the Enchanted Door of memory back to his childhood.

Erica Scurr is a member of SourcePoint’s creative writing group. Creative writing typically meets on the last Monday of each month at 2 p.m.