Here is my latest You Are Here Stories post, on the theme of Time & Place. I think of it as my love letter to Lake Chautauqua and the dear friends who have shared it with me over the last 30+ years.
I stand on the white planks of the dock, listening to the gentle sloshing of water against the grassy shore. The sun is setting behind me on this mid-August evening, earlier than it did last night, and the windows of the cottages on the eastern shore of Lake Chautauqua reflect its rosy glow.
Behind me, I hear the faint clink of wine glasses being refilled. The murmur of after-dinner conversation is punctuated with wild giggles from five-year-old Isaiah as his dad tickles him, doing his best to rile him up before bedtime.
As I walk back to join my friends on the shady side porch, I hear the teenagers laughing together from the kitchen. They have finished clearing the picnic table of ravaged corncobs and remnants of hamburger fixings, used paper plates and empty tortilla chip bags.
Once upon a time, I would have been the one standing at that sink, stowing leftovers, choosing dish duty as an introvert’s temporary retreat from the stimulation of too many people. But on this evening, I am content to lower myself into a cushioned deck chair and join the twilight conversation circle with my friends.
April’s theme at You Are Here Stories is Reclaiming Place. This marks my fifth YAH contribution.
Tears streamed down my face as I huddled in my corner of the backseat of our wood-paneled station wagon. I was crying as quietly as I could, not wanting to attract concerned attention from my parents, or ridicule from my two younger brothers. As the car sped north and west—across the causeway to the mainland, away from the Atlantic Ocean and toward my western Pennsylvania home—I was convinced that my 12-year-old heart would break.
The Best Week of the Year had come to an end.
My father was born on April 4, 1941, which means he would be 75 years old today.
I wish he were still here so we could celebrate together, but in lieu of that, I’ll take this opportunity to share the four-part series of articles written about him the year before he died.
Happy birthday, Dad! I miss you.
Here’s my fourth You Are Here Stories post. March’s theme is Mess & Place.
The stack of plates next to the sink had bits of dried cheese and other unidentifiable foodstuff stuck to them. A frying pan and a couple of saucepans were soaking in dirty dishwater in the sink, along with handfuls of cutlery. Unwashed drinking glasses were colonizing next to the dirty plates. I had just recovered a couple more from the living room where they had been abandoned, water rings left behind on the garage-sale end tables.
The house was quiet. The students who weren’t still sleeping in their bedrooms were scattered across campus, attending class or studying in the library.
And I was annoyed.
My third You Are Here Stories post is filed under February’s theme, Money and Place.
When I was a little girl, I thought my daddy made all the money. That’s because when I once asked him what he did at work, he told me, “I make pennies.”
I probably was too young to comprehend the complexities of managing a blast furnace for US Steel, which is how my father actually spent his days back then. But I like to think I might have been able to wrap my five-year-old brain around it to some extent. Instead, I spent quite some time believing that my father worked in a penny factory.
To be sure, he was compensated for his actual work with many, many pennies—and nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars. Because of this, my life growing up was very different from his.
Here’s my second You Are Here Stories post, filed under the theme for January, Laughter and Place.
Their husbands didn’t get it.
Lauren, Mary, Suzy, and I made plans to meet at Beth’s house near Chicago for a long April weekend. Lauren would drive in from Indianapolis, and Mary could handle the six-hour drive from St. Louis. Naturally, Suzy and I decided to make the trip to Beth’s together, from Pennsylvania.
Which is why we booked flights to St. Louis so that we could drive north to Beth’s house with Mary. Because, road trip.
This is what their husbands (and probably mine, if I had one) could not understand. It’s all about the journey.
My first You Are Here Stories contribution is live. December’s theme is Finding Place. Enjoy!
The snapshot is of a girl in a gray Allegheny College hoodie, one she purchased in the campus bookstore on one of her pre-college visits. She is gazing at the camera, chin on fist, an open notebook on the table in front of her, a pen clutched between her fingers. She is not smiling.
The girl in the gray sweatshirt is me, more than three decades ago.
I look at the photo today, and I remember the melancholy and relief, the complicated emotions I experienced upon completing the first term of my first year of college. I remember that unmoored sensation, adrift between old and new and unknown.