I wrote this post on the first night of our vacation last week, but since we didn’t have internet access am posting it today. Re-reading it makes me want to jump in the car and head right back to this place that I love so much. I hope you enjoy taking a little trip with me, down a gravel “memory lane”….
As I write this, I am sitting on the back porch of a lake house my uncle built with his hands over 20 years ago, on a lake I have been coming to since, quite literally, before I was born. My first official visit was when I was six weeks old. My parents tent-camped then, and there are pictures of me in my portable crib, or with my then-teenage brother, taken at what used to be the area reserved for weekend tent campers. Gradually, the folks moved to a pop-up camper, and then to the Zipper, which was actually a tiny little trailer, with a tiny little bathroom, which beat the heck out of the hole in the ground out in the woods. : )
When I was about five years old, Mama and Daddy purchased an actual mobile home, with a lot overlooking a cove that held the boat house, just up from the designated swimming area. It was great. It had an actual three piece washroom, complete with full-size tub, potty and sink. The kitchen had all the appliances too. We even had our own bedrooms. We thought our “vacation home” was pretty awesome, and it was. We knew almost all the folks who had places in the club; all the kids stayed out playing into the night and nobody ever worried whether we’d come home safely or not.
Sadly, my father passed away when I was six; but even after, my mom and I came up on weekends all the time, and stayed in our little piece of heaven. If you’ve never been to Clark Hill Lake, you’re missing a treat. It’s a huge lake, with hundreds of miles of shoreline; but because it has never gotten over-populated, it lives “small”. Most all of the families who were in our lake club when I was born still have members here; and their kids are here too. Both I, and my daughters, see people we grew up summering with in the club. Even today it isn’t a fancy place to go. Because it is designated by the Corps of Engineers for use as recreation, it’s still mostly a summer place. There are no big brick and stucco houses in our club. In fact, the board of directors (BoD) just began to allow double-wides in the last decade or two! The lots are pretty small, so big houses where you are on top of your neighbor just wouldn’t do here. It still has all the feel of a summer lake club; though actually, one of my favorite times to be here is in the fall, when it’s cooler and less people come up. It’s quiet, like tonight. You hear the tree frogs, and crickets and all those other night sounds that are the outdoors. Because there are only a few street lights in the more public areas, like near the boat ramps, you see the moon, and the stars, and the planes going by over your head while sitting on your porch, deck or dock. Occasionally, you even spot a shooting star, and satellites are frequent passersby.
Here, in this little spot of heaven, there is rest, peace. Back when my dad was alive, he wouldn’t put a telephone in our place. He owned and ran a boat business, five-and-a-half days a week. He didn’t want anyone to be able to contact him on the short weekends he had off. Even after he passed away, we didn’t have a phone for years. I remember countless walks up to the clubhouse (and I use that term loosely) to use the phone that was on the screened in back porch. Most of the time, it worked. Occasionally it shocked the heck out of you! I don’t remember ever having a phone in that little lake “home.” After my uncle built his place, since it was just he and my aunt who used it, Mama sold our place and we came to Uncle John’s cabin. Uncle John was a rebel of sorts. The BoD told him he could only have a single-wide trailer up here, though he could add an “enclosed porch”. So he went out and bought some dinky little, old run down trailer, kept one outside wall of it up and built his “enclosed living, dining, 3 bedroom, 2 bath porch” all around that one wall. Oooohhh, let me tell you, that did not go over too well… at first. But as it turns out, the BoD saw you could have something a little bigger than a single-wide on your lot and not be on top of each other. It wasn’t long ‘til you saw those single-wides taking a ride out of the gate, one by one, and the doubles moving in, popping up everywhere. Even the old single Mama and I had spent so much of our summers in made its way out for a shiny new trailer that got its own “enclosed porch.”
In a way, Uncle John was a pioneer of sorts. I loved that man more than even I probably knew at the time, and he loved me…and my husband (mostly because he stood up to my stodgy uncle, and Uncle John respected that.) Mostly, he loved our two daughters. Oh, how he loved them. He would take them out for boat rides and let them drive. Or go down on the dock and fish with them. For years, our youngest called Clark Hill, Uncle John’s Lake. I think she still thinks of it that way.
So tonight, on this warm and muggy evening (it was 100 degrees today), I sit out on the deck, alone… in the dark…my laptop monitor the only light on my level. I watch the moon rise in the sky, I listen to the crickets and tree frogs; I think of what I am going to cook tomorrow to take to the club dinner and to a cookout lunch with friends. I relish in this slower pace that we have so little of at home. But mostly, I think about this place, and the people I have loved who made Clark Hill so special for me; men like my daddy and Uncle John, who are gone now, but will never be forgotten. Men, whose influence on my life will live on, even in my children. And I think about my mama who is here with me. She is 87 now. Might this be her last visit here or will there be more? I hope there are more; but if not, I know that I will remember her here; remember the woman who was brave enough to bring a young daughter weekending in a trailer at the lake. Strong enough to keep coming here, even though this is where Daddy had a heart attack and died two weeks later. Fun enough to bring other teenagers with me, when I got too old to think it was “cool” to just be with my mom for a whole weekend. I’ll remember all the nights we stayed up ‘til the wee hours playing canasta at our little kitchen table and the long days she stayed down at the swimming area with me so I could swim and play. I’ll see her in that little trailer kitchen making all sorts of amazing things to eat, like her delicious potato salad, or fried chicken, or breakfast-for-dinner. Yes, Mama will remain with me here any time I come, just as Daddy and Uncle John do. And I will love this place all the more for it.
Do you have a favorite place that speaks to your heart like no other? I’d love for you to share it with us. Feel free to tell us in a comment below; and go there soon to enjoy it all over again.
Be inspired. Be inspiring.
[Clicking on the pictures will give you a more complete view of them. For some reason, some are not showing in their entirety.]