Grand Lake holds a special place in my heart. Dad’s parents had a home there for most of my childhood, and my memories of summers spent there are…magical. We’re talking back steps framed by huge Dahlias, the smell of freshly turned garden soil, the taste of home grown…everything, and the glint of sunlight on the water as I studied my Grandpa Bill’s fishing skills and tried to whistle through my front teeth just like he did. Although my grandparents are gone now, Dad and his brothers and sisters rent a place there every summer. There’s lots of laughing, talking and my God the food…well, we like to eat. I’ll just say that much.
Last weekend we all got together for our long weekend, and Grandma Audrey and Grandpa Bill always seem to hover a bit closer these weekends. I always get a little nostalgic when the lake weekend approaches, and this year my grandparents felt especially close. As I made my shopping lists and gathered my stuff, I suddenly got an urge for grape soda. I don’t think I’ve tasted a grape soda that didn’t come out of my grandfather’s “pop fridge”. My cousin’s little ones were very excited by the grape soda I brought, lots of “oohs” and “aahs” over the stuff. A craving for strawberry shortcake overwhelmed me, and although my store bought strawberries were ripe and sweet, they still didn’t compare to the ones that came out of my grandmother’s garden in the back yard. (as opposed to the one in the lot across the street. That one was Grandpa’s.)
I’ve visited Grand Lake (officially known as Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees) with other people, but it was never quite the same on those trips. There weren’t any pickles Grandma Audrey made, there was no driveway lined with flowers, and Grandpa Bill’s homemade ice cream was no where to be found. (Can you tell? My family REALLY likes food!)
I learned a lot on that lake growing up. My cousin taught me what firecrackers in an old metal coffee can sounded like; Dad taught me how to tell a really good scary story; and my Uncles showed me that sometimes it is better just to jump on in…even if the water is freezing. I caught my first fish on that lake; dropped an expensive fishing pole to the bottom of it; learned to dive off my dad’s shoulders; watched Grandma make noodles (I haven’t figured that one out yet), helped teach (and I use that term VERY loosely) my cousin how to swim; caught fireflies; tried to lean how to grow things (my sister is MUCH better at that than I am); watched my mother run from a raccoon; and we laughed…a lot.
For me Grand Lake is filled with happy memories and love, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re making new memories on the lake now, and Spider-Man-like leaps, fish kisses, and my first experience with home-brewed whiskey are just a few (the whiskey was great…the morning after, not so much). My sister’s strawberry preserves and homemade pickles are showstoppers, a new generation is learning how to fish, and we’re still laughing. Fortunately, some things never change.
‘Til next time,