Friends of my Youth

_DSC0112 07.19.15  There is such a quiet, still pause here after guests and family have left.  We often review the summer by adding up how many weeks we did NOT have house guests over the short season.  We welcome the stillness when they’ve left, but also acknowledge how strange it feels to sit alone together for dinner at our round table on the terrace–the same green and white checkered tablecloth left from dinner with friends.  Yesterday, I heard the shrieks of children, and music and laughter, from the renters arriving at the old Brown cabin next door.  A little one shouted, “Grandma!”–sweet music, after recently talking about my good fortune in being a grandmother now for fourteen years.  While down at the water, I heard a father and children paddling around on a raft and I listened to his tale of the Flathead Monster.  In the evening, three boys were on the raft, far out in the lake–“three men in a tub”–a nursery rhyme we’ve experienced here many times.

Our guest cabin, above the garage, is probably my favorite place on the property.  Alone this early morning with placid water and not a skiff of breeze in the cool air, I took my coffee up there.  I picked up one of the books sitting on the desk–a photographic history of old Canadian summer cottages on Muskoka Lakes.  I recognized all the photos I’d used for inspiration in designing and decorating our lake house fifteen years ago; something in me felt deeply drawn to those old lake houses, though that was not my own life experience.

There was that one summer at Grand Lake, Colorado.  Its memories are coming over me in these past few weeks as my sisters and I circle the wagons around my gravely ill brother.  I was maybe twelve or thirteen when we rented a big old house–and we were not a family that ever lived in old houses.  Our mother was cutting-edge with Danish Modern furniture, a turquoise blue front door, and an aluminum Christmas tree with that spinning colored light contraption that hummed.   I was the outlier, drawn to antique furniture and the Priscilla curtains that fluttered in the window of my Grandma’s house.  The Grand Lake house felt enormous, perched on a rocky slope at the edge of the icy-cold mountain lake.  In addition to our family of six, Aunt Mary’s six from Ohio were there, and Aunt Mary Guy, from Washington state, with her family of twelve or fourteen–I can’t remember how many kids they had, both biological and adopted.  It probably was a big house.  All I can recollect about it is the kitchen which faced the water, and there was an enormous drawer filled with stacks of silver-plated flatware which I found so interesting when setting the table.  I have fond memories of my Mom and Aunts constantly cooking and washing up.  They seemed so competent and efficient–Aunt Mary Guy, with all those kids, calming going about her work, in contrast to my Mother’s frenetic pace.   And, there was that lovely cold, dark-green water in our cove where we waterskied in the early mornings and evenings when it was calm and flat.  Not much, really, but here I am thinking about all of this, in my little guest cabin, on this quiet morning, next to the beautiful lake where I ended up living, fifty plus years later.

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