June 30, 2010

To All The Lakes I've Loved Before

Published July 1, 2010 Columbia City Post and Mail.

I have full-blown “lake envy.” Here in southern Indiana where we have had 90-plus degrees for many days in June, I’m pining for my northern Indiana home.

Lest you think I’m making sport of the unending, wicked rains northern Indiana has suffered, I am not.

When I moved back to Indiana from Florida 23 years ago, I anticipated summers similar to those of my childhood. I longed for crisp, cool June evenings, when one might need a sweater. I longed for days and nights at a lake, swimming, boating, fishing, and relaxing in a wooden chair with a good book.

Southern Indiana is very different from northern Indiana.

Spring is a very short season here. There are usually two weeks when one can turn off the furnace and open windows encouraging fresh air through the house.

Then summer hits like a blast furnace door opening.

As the cliché goes, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

Southern Indiana has the sultry combination of the Ohio River Valley and factories spewing substances into an already sticky sky. The “Ozone Alert Day” in summer is as common as a thunderstorm warning in spring.

As my father told me tales of his walking to school in three-foot snowdrifts, I tell my child about how I grew up without air conditioning in Whitley County. He is amazed.
And as for lakes? Well….growing up we called what they deem lakes here “ponds.” Across the street from our home in southern Indiana is “West Lake.” West Lake is to real lakes what Tunker is to Toronto.

Our neighbors to the south have two wonderful bodies of water, Kentucky and Barclay lakes. However, I need to point out these were man made via the Tennessee Valley Authority. Harrumph.

Sometimes I puff up and brag to my neighbors, I grew up with lovely summer days and beautiful natural lakes.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, my grandparents owned a cottage at Lake Wawasee. This little brown cabin-in-the-wood was long ago replaced by condominiums and high-end homes.

While not hewn from Lincoln logs, this was no fancy cabin. It sported metal beds, metal cabinets, linoleum floors, and a loose, squeaky screen door. Can you imagine the whoosh smack sound the door made slamming unevenly into its wooden frame? A voice boomed from within --“Don’t slam the door,” as the sound of the frame shaking resonated in the tiny kitchen.

Memories of these sounds mesh with those of going out to search for Grandpa.
In his plaid shirt, brown cap, and long pants, Grandpa was probably out catching bluegill, that bony, annoying little fish we battered, fried, and slathered with tartar sauce. When I wouldn’t bait my own hook, my fishing days with Grandpa ended as quickly as they began. Okay with me. I wasn’t fond of worms, dead or alive.

However, I could always convince Grandpa to take me for a cruise in his shiny, blue speedboat. My brother and I relished going across Wawasee to the water filling station to fill up the boat.

While Wawasee was my first love, there were others--Lake Oliver, Salamonie Reservoir, Loon Lake, and the Indiana Dunes. Summer reminds me of jumping on trampolines at North Webster, sticky Chinese rice at Foo and Fays, and weekends in an A-frame with high school friends on Loon Lake.

Something about a blue-blue sky, wisps of gray-white clouds, childhood imagination, and an icy, cold green lake that crafts a perfect summer day in northern Indiana.