The Lake House | 31 Days of Growing Up

I have such good memories of my growing up years.

Sure, we kids had our differences and dysfunctions here and there, but we were far from dysfunctional; we were close in age and close-knit, and we were luckier than most with parents who loved us, raised us in church, and gave us a secure base from which to launch daring adventures, as the saying goes. I'm blessed and, thinking back as the years go by and I see more of the world and its harshness, I'm increasingly thankful for my family, the good times, and all the stories.

I'm looking forward to putting more of those stories and memories in writing during the next month as I participate in Write 31 Days. (Note today's and tomorrow's posts are both scheduled, as I am out of town this weekend.)

One of my most vivid and cherished memories of my growing up years is of our summer vacations at "the lake house". It was a round house built high on a bluff overlooking the lake, and we spent many joyous weeks there as a family. The following is part one of an essay about this house that I wrote in high school.

Something was about to happen. You could sense it somehow. The air was still as if it was trying to dissuade the imminent occurrence by playing dead. The leaves on the trees were turned inside out. Flocks of songbirds, high up in the branches, twittered amongst themselves in the uncomfortable silence. A quickening wind swept off the white-crested waves of Lake Michigan, swayed through the beach grass growing up the hill to the cottage, and blew across our faces as we sprawled expectantly on the three season porch. The breeze smelled like sand, incessant freshwater waves rolling onto the beach, and faintly like yesterday’s bonfire. Mostly it smelled like rain.

There was nothing we anticipated more eagerly than watching a storm roll in across the lake. Thunderstorms were the highlight of cherished vacations. Every summer, when my five younger siblings and I were growing up, my family would spend a week at a cottage on Lake Michigan. Each year we counted down the days until the morning finally arrived when we would pile our duffle bags and lifejackets into the back of our twelve-passenger van, clamber into our seats, and fidget excitedly until we saw “Ferrysburg/Spring Lake, 1 mile”. It seemed like hours until we heard the squeal of the brakes as the van turned into the narrow dirt driveway that wound through the woods. We gazed out the windows at the dim trees and undergrowth mottled by sporadic rays of sunlight finding their way through the canopy of leaves overhead. When the driveway turned to cement, we knew we were close; we almost bounced out of our seats in excitement. There was the small, red barn on the right, then our dear cottage straight ahead!

Before the van pulled to a stop, we were scrambling toward the door, having to throw our weight against it because it stuck. We hit the pavement running, chasing after the sound of the waves and breathing in the fresh air. We did not mount the spiral stairs to the front door, or peer in the basement windows at the pool table, or follow the path to the blackberry patch. We ran up the wooden steps around the side of the house and stopped where the beach grass sloped steeply down to the sand. The lake fanned out before us, blue and green dotted with frothy whitecaps, shimmering, glistening in the bright sun. It went on forever, past the horizon, and we tried to take in every different shade of color, every wave, every reflection.

As we stood together looking out over Lake Michigan, we were silent, because, even as children, we realized that some things in this world are indescribable. It was a brief moment of silence, however: words may not have been adequate, but squeals and whoops of delight were satisfactory. We pounded down the stairs and raced across the beach, feeling the hot sand between our toes, then the cold water splashing our legs. Seagulls cried, diving and circling high overhead. After we had thoroughly soaked each other, we bounded back up the stairs and ran through the cottage, not only to convince ourselves that we had, in fact, arrived at our beloved home, but also to track down our bathing suits.

Click here to read part two.

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