My family has been frequenting Lake James down in North Carolina regularly not only from the time I was born, but from the time my father was born. Growing up my parents would load up the car every Friday night during the summer with a ton of groceries, bags packed to the brim with bathing suits and sunscreen, magazines and books, and our dog. No matter what time we finally got on the road we always made the hour long trip to the lake that night so we could wake up bright and early on Saturday morning to pack in as much fun in the sun as possible.
My grandparents occupied the camper next to us, and next to them was my great uncle and aunt. Just up in the woods our cousins held down the camping spot that had been ours for years, and much to my delight my aunt and my cousin Nedge (<–nickname) and her daughter crashed in my grandparent’s and aunt and uncle’s campers.
Every weekend was a family affair filled with early morning Sea Doo runs (we had 8 parked out in front of our collective camp at one point!), massive breakfasts of gravy and biscuits (or even better blackberries), eggs, sausage, livermush (even my mostly vegetarian loving heart will always have a place for livermush – don’t judge!), hours of trying to fight off whiplash as we laughed hysterically being pulled on a tube, skiing until our arms felt like they would fall off, floating in the cool water to beat the blazing hot sun, eating cold beefaronis out of a can on the pontoon boat, cooking out for dinner with the intoxicating scent of charcoal wafting through the air, and finally finishing the night over roasted marshmallows and a camp fire that lit up the night.
And every Saturday night we packed the car up with our soggy belongings and headed home so we could be up in time for church.
Those weekends will forever reside in my mind as some of the best of my life. Countless moments of joy and family, free of the influence of alcohol, just buzzed on life. I actually got to see my grandmother and grandfather’s young spirits soar as they played around spraying us with waves from the Sea Doo, my Papaw skiing in spite of a mostly numb leg left from a stroke years before, and letting mischief take hand over a wild game of Skip Bo under bare light bulbs rigged ever so delicately from the “game tent”.
Memorial Day weekend was always looked forward to with great anticipation because it was the first time of the summer that we didn’t have to go home after only a single night. We had three uninterrupted days of lakin’.
I won’t pretend this Memorial Day weekend isn’t hard. My Facebook feed is flooded with status’ and pictures of my friends and family enjoying the lake (everyone goes to “the lake” regardless of which lake it is) or enjoying a long weekend at the beach. I would give my right leg to soaking up the sun on the dock, or taking a “swim call” with my new furry niece for the first time, or enjoying a glass of wine and a tense game of Fast Track with my family.
Our lake weekends have changed. We now spend them at my parent’s lake house, and my aunt now stays with us. Thanks to new ownership of our old campground, complete with jacked up prices, my grandparent’s and aunt and uncle just visit our house during the week and spend their weekends at home. My cousins hold down the fort in our old camper spot. And even my younger sister’s body aches at the thought of tubing in anything other than the comfy couch-like tube we now ride.
And as of a month ago, I no longer see the lake.
I never realized what a privilege it was to have the lake, either the camper or the lake house. To not have to be concerned about the holiday crowds, or expensive holiday prices placed on any sort of recreation. I enjoyed the holiday blindly from the comfort of our private cove.
This weekend Husband and I have tried to make the most out of the free time since he had Friday and Monday off. We made an attempt to brew our first batch of beer, made homemade peanut butter, saw a movie, ate frozen yogurt, hiked and picnicked in Custer State Park, and actually stopped to think about the meaning of the holiday since this year it hits so close to home.
My how Memorial Day has changed for us, as with everything that was always so “tradition” to us, it’s now filled with new traditions, new experiences, and an unexplored sense of independence.
Happy Holidays to you all! Hope it was a safe, happy, family filled day!