The Lake. Sugar Lake. A tiny little patch of happy in Pennsylvania where our family has had a cottage, this cottage, for 109 years. I can still see my bare feet, blackened from the hot tar from the road, running up those stairs, a stinky hot mess of a kid loving her summer.
When I'm there, when I think of it, images float into my mind. This is what I see.
- Playing Trivial Pursuit on the screened porch
- Tin cups in bright colors
- Fighting over who would get the turquoise towel
- Carving our names into mushrooms Grandma found with us.
- Wearing my first bikini
- Swimming in the lake, standing on old inner tubes, playing king
- Eating all my favorite foods, nary a thought to my waist line
Makes me smile.
Now I live 1000 miles from this childhood idyll and being there is worth ever hard earned mile. My joy comes from two sources. The first is simple remembrance. Some people who have enjoyed the cottage are no longer living, some I haven't seen in over 20 years. The whole family doesn't always get there every summer but no matter who is there, we still, ALWAYS play Trivial Pursuit. Walking in the slamming back door into the kitchen is entering a family museum. My dad's high school art work, my aunt's books, old fishing rods. Even the curtains, made by hand by my great grandmother, still hang.
I'm awash and downright glowy with nostalgia. I've smeared vaseline on the lens of history and only the beautiful remains. But whatever.
Because the second source of joy in being there is watching my kids. Five of the seven cousins scrambled around the yard all day and well into the night on July 4th. The ambled from one activity to the next; from art on the porch to swinging, races in the yard, smoke bombs, fishing, bug catching. The whole bit. They wake up and play. All. Day. Long. And they go to bed tired.
It may sound like I'm romanticizing a pile of wood and glass and nails. Maybe I have. Nothing wrong with a little childhood idyll.