Yesterday after work, my sidekick brother The Hippie Andino (aka Don Pablo) and I high-tailed it out of town…
We headed west forever, and then went north for a while, ultimately landing in my personal little slice of heaven.
Most folks have never heard of this little spot, and that’s how I prefer to keep it. I grew up comin here… this is the town where my grandparents, my aunt, uncle, cousins, sister, nieces and nephew are from.
It’s a tiny place, and doesn’t make it onto most maps.
I learned to waterski on the lake in my grandparents’ backyard, and will never forget zippin’ past their house on those skis, waving at my grandmother, who was watching us from the kitchen window.
I thought she must love the water, the way she always came to that window anytime we were on or near the lake. It wasn’t until years later that I learned she couldn’t swim, and was afraid of the water. She was always full of terror when we went out there… for our sake, she kept a smile on her face but she was ever-vigilant. She didn’t know what she’d be able to do for us, should we find ourselves in any trouble out there, but couldn’t bear to tear her eyes away, even for a second.
I learned to fish on that lake, I swam there in the summers and ice-skated in the winter. We stuffed ourselves on the most amazing country cooking… everything… fried catfish and croppy (catch of the day, no less), fried turkey, roasts, homemade breads, cakes… you name it… all dripping with pounds of real butter.
No place has ever been more relaxing… and nothing says tranquility like taking my uncle’s old boat out on the water and laying down in it in the center of the lake with a good book in hand… drifting off to sleep.
In the evenings my parents and the other adults would gather ’round the kitchen table and play Pinochle. As the night went on, they’d get louder and louder, laughing harder and harder. At some point each evening my mom would get into a tiff with Grandpa… never anything serious… but about that time my dad would come and find us kids, and send us off to bed.
I spent countless Christmases here along with other members of our family. The place would be packed with aunts, uncles, cousins… everybody. Someone made and decorated huge pillowcases to be used each year, and all our presents would be dumped in them. We’d take turns reaching inside our pillowcase, pulling out the next goody- it could be anything- our family is a diverse one. We come from every walk of life, every background, financial status… you name it, seems someone from our clan represented it in some way.
Times have changed…
The cousins have grown up and moved away. Grandma has passed on. Divorce happens, people move away, get married, start their own lives.
The essence is still here though… the personality of my little slice of heaven lives on. The lake hasn’t changed much, though no one from my family has waterski’d on it in years. I still see my grandmother watching me from the kitchen window, though now it is her spirit and not her physical self who looks after me.
To this day, this is still the only place on earth where I will slather everything- or anything, for that matter- with real butter.
Maybe this evening I’ll set some catfish lines… and listen to my grandfather’s stories from back in the day.
Regardless, I know when it’s time to return to my regular life, I’ll be renewed in the way only this place can make me.