It was summer. It was homemade vanilla ice cream. It was checkers on the porch. And it was watermelon and Grandpa’s whistling and his old blue coffee cup. It was cousins and aunts and great-uncles. It was biscuits and syrup in the morning and fried fish for dinner. It was swimming and sandcastles.
For as far back as I can remember, I recall spending countless summers at my grandparents’ lake house in East Texas. Sometimes Easter, but always summer. My family never went anywhere on vacation. I’ve never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld. Never been to Hawaii much less Europe. Vacation was the lake house. That was summer. I remember standing barefoot in the shallow waters off my grandparents’ beach, fishing for tiny brim and crappie with a Snoopy fishing pole. My grandma baiting the hook with night crawlers she’d found under decaying logs and leaves. The fish were just bait for the catfish trotlines my grandpa and dad had strung years earlier. It was fun. Cool water lapping at my ankles while little fish nipped and tickled my toes. Grandma by my side, telling me stories of the ones that got away or the time she and Grandpa caught a whole mess of bass in a storm that one spring.
I grew out of the Snoopy rod quicker than I’m sure she’d have liked. Years later it was sitting on the pier wearing ratty jean cutoffs. Long frizzy hair in Willie Nelson braids, my hair was even dyed the same color as Willie’s, although I hated country music. I hated a lot of things back then. Soundgarden and Nirvana blaring into my ears from a portable CD player, while I thought about how much I hated my life, hated being me. I sat there for hours, feet dangling in the cool water. Then Grandma would sneak up on me and laugh as she surprised my self-loathing, teen-angst riddled meditation. We shared a moment as she rolled up her pants and dangled her feet right along with me. We shared the silence as I turned off my CD player. We shared each other as we shared a Ziploc bag filled with cornmeal. That’s all we did. Fed the same brim I used to catch for my dad years earlier before my parents divorced. Even though we never spoke, I never had to explain what I was doing out there all alone. She never asked. She understood everything. She just sat with me and in the quiet comforting togetherness we fed tiny fish cornmeal out of a baggie.
A few years later we moved two lots down from them on the lake. I spent everyday right down the street from her. We raked leaves in October. We fed the fish cornbread dressing crumbs after Thanksgiving dinner. Birthdays, anniversaries, victories and defeats, all were shared with Grandma at the lake. We went to Grandma’s for Sunday dinner and watched football with Grandpa. Sat on the back porch, drank coffee and watched the leaves change color from green to yellow to orange to red to brown right before our eyes. The lake was home now. It wasn’t just summer anymore — it was fall, winter and spring. It wasn’t just the 4th of July reunion. It was Halloween and high school football. It was Thanksgiving dinner and cousins. It was Christmas and holly and lights. It was New Year’s. It was Easter Sunday. It was prom and graduation. The lake became everything and so did my grandma. She dipped her toes into my being and by the time I became a woman she swam freely in my waters, just like that old lake. She still swims inside me. In these recollections. In every day I get to spend with her. In her genes that flow through all my soul. I wish I could hear her wisdom, but she hasn’t spoken in more than four years now. As we sit together in the quiet, like those summer days at the lake, I wonder if she’s thinking about them too.
© Angela G. Foster 2007