It’s at close to Leave It To Beaver as I/we get. My brother’s family visits my lake cottage every July 4th. He and his wife bring anywhere from three to five of their children and assorted playmates for a week’s worth of beach time bonding and blueberry pancake breakfasts. Friends from the city weave in an out of the activities adding another three to five to seven more people at the dinner table. Scattegories (a game where answers to categories have to begin with the same letter) teams challenge each other post-dinner for the most ridiculous answer. This year’s winners were all generated when we had to come up with answers that started with the letter “O”.
• Something found on a hike: Onions
• Items in a salad bar: Oysters
• Things at school: Obnoxious children.
My brother and my 10 and 12-year old nephews caught 14 Coho salmon from Lake Michigan this year. I threatened them with pizza for dinner if they weren’t successful – guess it worked. Husband grilled perfect salmon filets for four nights running with no complaints. It’s hard to believe that I rejected salmon the first time I ate it. But a salmon patty made from canned sock-eyed salmon is about as different from fresh caught lake salmon as a cocoa bean is from a chocolate truffle.
These lake vacations do and do not resemble the lake vacations my family took when we were children. We stayed in rented cottages where Mom had to pack sheets and towels for the week. Dad wore socks with his Bermudas shorts and Mom tried to stay out of the sun. The fish we caught were either returned to their lake home or begrudgingly eaten by all of us. Air conditioning was something we left behind.
Instead of Scattegories we put together puzzles (minus one or two missing pieces) over the course of the week, played endless rounds of Gin Rummy or Rummy 500, read books, and bathed in the lake after sweeping the beach of dead alewives.
I treasure this week with my brother, sister-in-law, cousins and niephews (my collective noun for nieces and nephews) because I feel I’m part of a happy family sitcom snapshot of Middle America – the laughing and fun part. And I’m exhausted by this week because I am not a mother or keeper of a large household outside of this week and I feel as if I’m part of a dysfunctional family sitcom snapshot of Middle America.
I don’t normally push two shopping carts through Costco for a week’s worth of provisions, and still need to go to the grocery store. It’s rare for me to run the washing machine every day or go through all my dishtowels in one meal. Cleaning the floors on my hands and knees? Unheard of unless the brownies/ice cream/syrup dessert mixes with the spilled lemonade. I do sweep on a regular basis. So it’s different for me to just stop and give in to an acceptable level of sand in the house. My hair hasn’t seen a blow dryer, or my eyelashes a mascara wand in seven days. I’m afraid no one noticed.
Over the July Fourth week I get as close to June Cleaver (without Wally and The Beaver to call me Mom or pearls around my neck) as I ever will. Making my house a place to gather and do and laugh and sometimes even learn something.
“Dark chocolate,” I announced as the answer my teammate and I had come up with for items found in a desert that being with a “D.” Guffaws, belly laughs, incredulous looks from the kids in the room.
“The category is desert not dessert,” my brother said.
“Oh no,” my teammate and I convulsed into laughter. “How did we read that wrong?”
“Because you didn’t have my fourth grade teacher,” my 18 year-old niece said, “She told us to remember that there are two S’s in dessert because you always want more.”