I'm at the Lake today. The lake has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I've been coming here since I was an infant. My father has been coming here since he was around four or five. His Aunt Marie and Uncle Lohmie (pronounced all as one word --Uncooloamy-- by everyone I know) had a little cottage here. Back then it had an outhouse out back, and a dirt and gravel road.
When I was five, they built an actual house, with a garage up back that still had some of the feel of the old cottage, with a small shower to wash off all the sand before you trooped inside. It was definitely more comfortable to visit after that, but it had lost some of its charm.
When I was about 13, my parents bought a small cottage about three doors down. They named it Shadynook, after a cottage my mother's family had had when she was little. This new Shadynook was tiny. It had one central room with an L-shaped screened in porch around the front and north side. Two bedrooms off the main room, which had a kitchen of sorts at the back. The kitchen area was so small there was no room for the fridge, so that was kept in the small bathroom, along with canned goods up along a supporting beam that became a shelf. The shower was made out of thin metal that boomed like thunder every time you hit it, turning showering into a far more exciting experience than usual. Not long after my family had cleared out 30 years of dust and dirt, we had friends over, and one of my brother's pals announced "Excuse me while I go to the pantry."
There was no A/C, the walls didn't go to the ceiling, and the only phone was a single rotary dial up on the wall. Important phone numbers, like the one pizza place that would deliver, were scrawled up on the wood next to it. Exposed two-by-fours of the un-drywalled walls were turned into bookshelves that housed hundreds of old paperbacks, and dozens of decks of cards. There was no TV. Entertainment during the day was the lake itself, and the dozen feet of sandy beach before it. Two canoes, a rowboat, fishing tackle and enough pails and shovels to dig our way to China should we choose. In the evenings we played Hearts and Spades or Oh, Hell and talked. We played solitaire with actual cards. And talked and talked and talked. We were our own entertainment.
That little cottage is long gone now, with its thunderous shower, no privacy and mice, spiders and every other kind of critter imaginable sharing the space with us. In its place is a lovely house that still hosts more critters than I would like, but it boasts Wi-fi, more computers than occupants, multiple flat screen TVs, gaming consoles, DVD players, DVR, gourmet kitchen with a huge walk-in pantry that doesn't feature a toilet, and three full bathrooms. And it has central air. Were it still the cottage, we couldn't be out here because it would be too hot to breathe. So I'm not saying that I'd like to have the old Shadynook back instead.
But every now and then I'd like to go to "The Lake." I wish I could have the little cottage next door, where I could go and not be surrounded by the hum of electric gadgets, where everything was casual, and there was nothing between you and all the gorgeousness of nature but an old window screen. I wish I could take my children there.
And then I'd want to come back into the air conditioning and get onto the computer.