Making Memories

A friend was telling me about a rustic lakefront cabin that two generations of his family have rented every summer since 1950. That struck me as a fine tradition, so I asked what he liked best about it. Without hesitation, he said, “Making memories, of course.”
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A friend was telling me about a rustic lakefront cabin that two generations of his family have rented every summer since 1950. That struck me as a fine tradition, so I asked what he liked best about it. Without hesitation, he said,

Making memories, of course.

Many of us have found that cottages, cabins and camps are veritable memory incubators. Their walls are practically drenched with them. Funny how it works, though. The memories that rise to prominence as the years pass might not be the ones you expect. Not the Fourth of July celebration watching fireworks but running around the yard catching fireflies. Not learning to waterski behind the new powerboat but rowing to the island in the old wooden rowboat. It’s like taking a toddler to the zoo. You lead her to the elephant enclosure, but all she wants to look at are the sparrows at her feet.

One bright memory that often comes back to me is sitting in lounge chairs with our friends, Jim and Maryann, in front of their cabin on Platte Lake. It was a warm, humid July night and we were enjoying that feeling of contentment that comes at the end of a long day in the sun, in boats, swimming, fishing, playing lawn games, cooking over a grill.

As we chatted and poked the bonfire, we became aware of flashes of lightning low in the sky across the lake. “Heat lightning” we used to call it when we were kids, though meteorologists assure us there’s no such thing: it’s regular lightning so far away that the sound of the thunder can’t reach us. It occurs often on summer nights simply because that’s when masses of warm humid air are most likely to rise and meet cool air — the basic conditions that make thunder and lightning.

The lightning that night was flashing silently inside mountainous, anvil-topped thunderheads towering above the horizon north of us. Someone was getting pounded by a storm. We tried to guess how far away it might be. Thirty miles? Fifty? Jim pulled out his phone and checked the radar map, and we were astonished to see that the only thunderstorm in the upper Great Lakes region sat squarely on top of the Straits of Mackinac, 130 miles from us.

Just before dark that evening, we had sat in our chairs watching the kids fishing from the end of the dock. They were casting bobbers and worms and had caught a few small perch. I was surprised they caught anything at all. The water there is shallow and lacks cover — not a place that should attract game fish. But suddenly, Chris had reared back on his rod, bending it double, and a largemouth bass that must have weighed 4 pounds leaped from the water, ran for the drop-off and promptly broke the line. I checked Chris’ reel and discovered the drag had malfunctioned, but no matter. It was the biggest fish anyone could remember being hooked from the dock — maybe the biggest fish they had seen hooked in the lake, period — and you can be sure Chris will never forget it.


Jerry Dennis lives near Traverse City. His books include “The Living Great Lakes.” Visit him at jerrydennis.net

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