••• Friday, July 28, 2006

N is for Neighborhood 

When I was a little girl, like five or so, my family rented a cottage on a lake. I don't remember much of this experience, but I do remember a couple of things.

First of all, I was very disappointed when I learned that the cottage was not ours but we were merely borrowing it from some people we didn't know.

Because the cottage owners left their clothes in the closets and drawers, I was sure they didn't know we were there and every night while in bed, I waited for them to come busting into the room and send our busted, squatin' and now shamed asses, out into the night.

The other thing I remember about this cottage is that it wasn't directly on the lake, but you had to walk a half block down a road, which was also the boat launch. This area off the boat launch was public domain, and therefore our swimming area. Because I was only four or five years old, I didn't quite grasp the boatlaunch concept and my simple little city-girl brain determined that because the road lead directly into the lake, we were in mortal danger of being struck by cars, while swimming. We were, like, swimming in traffic.

The following summer, we took up camping for our family vacation. From the time I was six until 11 (the summer before my father died,1969) we camped the same two weeks (about the first two weeks in July) at the same campsite every year. Actually, I have lots of things to say about the camping, but not today. I'm just kind of organizing my thoughts here.

After my father died, we didn't do summer vacations. We did,however, rely on the kindness of family and friends who took pity on the widow and half-orphaned city kids for the occasional weekend invitation to a cottage.

Fast forward to just a couple of years ago, when my husband's parents sold off a huge, undeveloped chunk of lake land which had been handed down from a grand parent. With these proceeds, they bought a cottage on a beautiful lake in Northern Michigan.

For those of you with any experience with cottage life, you know that there are varying degrees of neighborhoodiness on a lake. Some properties are, by design, linked only to the main road, and isolated from their neighbors. These usually are the bigger, fancier homes of the wealthy.

Then there are cottage neighborhoods like ours. Ordinarily homey, and rich in history and heritage. In our cottagehood, we're the new kids on the block. The neighbors on one side of us have been here for 40 years, while on the other side, a mere 20. One home down from them lives a woman who is probably in her 80's and as a child, spent her summers on this lake, at her family cottage.

While people have been sweet and gracious and more than welcoming, we're going to be outsiders for a very long time. These people just know each other. Very well.

All these families include now grown children who spent summer after summer up here, baking and swimming and skiing together, in the annual three-month blocks of time.

Coming on to the scene so late in life, I can only imagine what it was like to grow up in such a magical place, establishing life long relationships with people from all over the country.

When I walk around here in the evenings, I can easily imagine a screened porch of slightly (or more) drunken adults, playing poker or bridge. I hear kids kicking the can or capturing the flag. Teens whispering behind the shed, sharing a smoke, Schnaaps and another trip around second base.

For whatever reason, most of the properties on this lake were originally owned and developed by people from Ohio, although some came from as far as Texas. Every summer.

At the end of the summer, I imagine the kids said good-bye until next year, and promised to write. I imagine some of these childhood friendships remain today.

The kids grew into young adults and eventually had kids of their own. These are the kids with whom my little girl has already started her summers of history.

That's her running off the deck in hot but breezy pursuit.

And playing in the water.

Yikes. This post has way more words than I planned on writing. And boring to boot. And I'm supposed to be packing to go north as we type. So, I'll just shut up now.

The 4th of July is huge up here. Quaint, sweet and dorky. And loud.

Here's the view from the nearest "corner."

Further down the road live some locals. This scene is on my nightly walk trail. This picture was taken last New Years Day. The holiday stuff in the windows is up all year. Pumpkins and Santas living in peace.

Next door to them is this place. Again, this was taken on New Years. Blogger has decided I've uploaded enough pictures today, but this home also has a year round holiday display of Rudolph the reindeer, flanked by gargoyles.

And for those of you currently sweltering in 90 plus degreedoms, this picture was taken last February, on one of the warmer days of the weekend, at a whopping 5 below. Not counting windchill.

I really should get packing.

They say it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

For the record, this post is going pretty much commando in regards to editing. Unless a naked picture of great aunt Bea somehow pops up. And if that happens, Blogger will really have some 'splaining to do...

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