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May 16, 2007

The Lake Reflection

Patricia A. Kelly

I'm putting away my grandmother's dishes. There aren't many of them left, but, when I touch them, I can still see them in her kitchen and remember her "new" house and these "new" dishes. I'm at the lake, again.

This year's visit had a bad beginning. I have a need to clear up pending projects at home before coming here every year, because this is my resting place. This year there were so many projects that it was impossible. I was late, almost a day, in arriving. I was exhausted and wired. I noticed my face, the skin pinched with tension, in the rear view mirror on the way up in the car.

When I arrived, my daughter was angry and let me know that my lateness was a disappointment to my family, and to my little grandchildren. Her words slapped me hard. I didn't look to see what the slap did to the little lines of worry in my face.

I went to the water within the hour, slipped down the ladder into the icy coldness and set out for the neighbor's dock, my tradition. Back and forth, and it's rather a distance, five laps a day.

The first lap is the hardest, of course, as in everything. It is really cold, and there are waves, more now than in previous years. Halfway through the first lap, I start to feel soothed by the water. I find that I can swim all the laps on the first day, in spite of the fact that I am out of shape. It helps.

I can feel the knots in my body loosening up, soothed by the water and by the ritual. My dad swam here, and my aunt, even when they were elderly and debilitated. This wasn't their childhood place, but it was their place for many adult years.

I love coming here. I walk around the house, formerly known as the cottage, open drawers and cupboards, straighten towels and dishes, arrange the cushions, re-hang Aunt Dorothy's hat on its hook, and look at the photographs on the walls.

Sometimes there is a new object. This year it's a sofa. Sometimes there is a new plaque extolling the virtues of the lake. I bought the ceramic one that says, "At the lake you forget to count the days."

I see the shadows of past aunt, sitting in the chair across from me; my dad coming out of the water; my small children frolicking and toasting marshmallows by the lakeside fire.

Now my daughter and son-in-law help their children to make s'mores at that same fire spot. All of our vacations, past and present, blend into soothing harmony here.

I'm getting older now. There's a touch of sadness, a tiny anticipation of future loss, but my shadow will remain here, I think. I'm touching this place now, and passing is what is supposed to happen.

My cousins own it now. My mom and I are given two weeks here every summer. I'm so grateful. It's my restoration week, or two, if I'm lucky. My cousin allowed one of his employees to use it once, and she returned to Chicago saying, "There's nothing to do there." I think there's too much to do here.

There are some antique shops and dollar stores, and, now, the place is becoming popular, so there are tourists in town, and some gentrification. I have mixed feelings about that. I am so glad that our part of the lake has remained the quiet part. Sitting on the dock at dawn, or sunset, and looking across feeds me for the coming year.

Throughout my life I've come to the lake. Before my aunt bought the house, I camped here with my mom and dad, my brother, our little dog Chico; and, often, with a family who were our friends.

I swam in the lake; hiked in the woods; tested my fear of heights by climbing the abandoned ranger tower; rowed a boat on a quiet lake nearby; slid down waterfalls on my behind until my shorts were shredded and I had to walk back to the campsite with my back against the trees so no one would see the back of me.

I revisit all these sights every year. I have taken my child cousin Jack to the hidden cave under the falls. I hope to take some grandchildren there soon. It's my life and my renewal.

We go shopping, of course, drive around and look at the nearby town and at what changes have occurred. We eat most of our meals, hearty ones in the cool mountain air, at "home". We swim. We take walks after dinner. We sit on the porch and listen to the rain on the roof. We talk things over in quiet voices. We read books. We buy fresh food and assorted candy at the farmer's market. We sleep deeply here, under ceiling fans, windows open, under warm blankets.

I daydream about things like putting shelves full of plants in the kitchen window at home, and whether to make them of glass or wood...important daydreams, these. Life is always full of possibilities for me here, no matter what has happened in the past year.

Oops! Today's the day the thrift shop is open for the morning. Gotta go....

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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