As you undoubtedly already know, June has arrived and although the solar calendar tells us summer isn’t officially here until Sunday, June 20, in Greenwood I believe it always comes a little earlier — perhaps on that long weekend when we observe Memorial Day and so many of us find ourselves out at the lake to spend time on the water with our loved ones.
Many years ago, long before stately subdivisions began winding their way around the perimeter of Lake Greenwood, my granddaddy bought a piece of land on the lake on which he built a small house with his own two hands. That house grew in size and changed shape many times over the decades to follow, as my granddaddy continued to expand the house, adding bedrooms and living spaces to accommodate visits from my grandparents’ ever-growing collection of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
For years, my grandparents spent their summers on the lake, and my mom still tells stories about the sadness that would fall over her as a child when, after Labor Day, the family would pack up and move back in to “the house in town,” just 10 miles down the road. Sometime when I was a child, my granddaddy retired and my grandparents decided to move to the lake full-time, which for me meant that summers were suddenly, wonderfully longer than they had been before, and there was nearly no limit to the number of days I could spend with my grandparents by the water.
I wish that every child could wake up in their grandparents’ lake house on a lazy summer’s morning to know the wonders I knew: an unscheduled day; the high, bright sound of my granddaddy whistling as he worked outdoors; the feeling of cool, dry pine needles under my bare feet at the hammock near the water. Tall pine, maple and cedar trees let pockets of sunshine into the yard and shaded the swings where we’d later retreat from the late afternoon heat in favor of a small Styrofoam cup of soft, homemade ice cream.
Those lake mornings were the best. I’d wake up and change out of my pajamas and right into my one-piece, favorite green “bathing suit,” as my grandmother called it, and for the rest of the day you could find me in the water, digging away at the red clay beneath the surface, or lining up mussels on the wooden steps at the shore, or jumping off the dock at the “deep end” while my grandmother watched me swim to shore for the hundredth time that day.
I often think that maybe, just maybe, if every child had experienced those summer days with my grandparents — so full of goodness and togetherness and joy for one another — then there just might be peace on earth.
Of course, every night on Lake Greenwood with my grandparents ended in nearly the same way, too. Having inevitably “gotten too much sun” on my shoulders, my grandmother would insist on applying apple cider vinegar to my red-brown skin with a cotton ball — she always said it would take the sting out of the burn — and I’d fall asleep smelling like a pickle to the sounds of the Atlanta Braves game from a few rooms over, where my granddaddy would be fast asleep in his chair in front of an old television set nearly the size of an oven.
I’m much older now, and that television set and hammock and little green bathing suit are long gone. I’ll even accept that the waves of passing boats have long since washed away the mussels I so carefully lined up on those wooden steps those years ago, at the house where my grandparents no longer are. But as it turns out, the wonder of summertime—and the feeling of being so completely and assuredly loved—isn’t bound by time. With every new June, this one included, a little piece of me will still wake up in my grandparents’ lake house.