It wasn’t the times we went to Texas for a week or two. It wasn’t when I went to Chicago and saw Jake Miller. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It was trips to Higgins Lake here in Michigan.
The roadtrip there was long. Mom sat shotgun while dad drove. They playfully bantered with the radio playing very softly in the background. Me and my best friend sat in the middle seats, sharing a pair of headphones and half listening to what my parents were saying.
The little ones sat in the back row of car seats. They talked loudly and laughed louder. My friend and I would steal glances at each other before rolling our eyes at how obnoxious they were being.
After a couple hours we finally arrived at our home for the rest of the weekend. As we pull into the park where we would be staying, butterflies filled my stomach. Would the house look the same? Would I forget where the bathroom was? Would my friend and I have our own room? And of course, when could we go in the water?
As we pull up into the driveway, the lake sparkles on my right. I only catch glimpses before we turn in and my mind flips to the house. Everything looks familiar. The porch is the same as it had been in the past. I could see the fire pit where we spent nights making s’mores. The same cars were parked as if they never left, even though I know they did.
The sliding door opens and we are greeted by the family we are staying with. Hugs go around. The three little girls of the family hang back shyly. I introduce my friend. “This is Emily,” I tell them. Emily is welcomed as if she was part of the family. We are shown upstairs, even though I already knew where I was going. Emily and I find the room we are staying in. We set our bags down, grinning at each other. It’s not just me who’s happy to be here.
The house is the same. Nothing has changed. The same pictures hang on the wall. The same row of coffee mugs flanks the countertop. The same VHS tapes are set up underneath the TV even though we all watch DVDs now. We find my parents and the other adults sitting at the table.
Emily and I wave as we head out to the water. We’re still in our shorts and t-shirts. They’re sticking to our back with sweat, even though we haven’t even been here that long. Emily and I follow the sidewalk that takes us out to a deck. We can clearly see the water now. Boats zip by. The water calmly laps at the shore. It smells like lake water. It smells like bonfires. It smells like summer.
Days are spent on the pontoon. Even if it’s anchored at the deck. Emily and I lay towels out and tan. We listen to music. We talk about boys. It doesn’t matter that the grown ups are sitting less than a foot away, they’re too immersed in their own conversations to pay attention to ours. The littles play in the water, acting like little fish and the girls pretend to be mermaids.
When we get too hot, Emily and I get in the water too. Part of me is nervous about getting Swimmers Itch, which is always a problem for me. Pink spots speckle my body, and it’s like being covered in mosquito bites. We lather up on ‘special lotion’ to prevent it and I pray that it works.
We eat meals of burgers and hot dogs. For breakfast, sometimes mom makes chorizo and eggs, my favorite. Sometimes we have cereal. Sometimes we have whatever we can find. Up at the lake, we can pretty much do whatever. Emily and I are free to take walks on our own. We’re free to go to the water whenever. We’re the designated baby sitters some of the time, but the kids are always too busy playing to get into any trouble.
The days we take the boat out are my favorite. We go out to the middle of the lake and anchor up. While the adults drink and talk and laugh, us kids jump off, hitting the cold water with a splash. Emily never does but I do and it’s always refreshing. When we want to take a break from swimming, we lay on the seats of the boat to once again bask in the summer sun. We snack on pretzels and chips and junk food. Later in the day we head back to shore.
Nights are always great. We build a fire. We sit in bag chairs. We eat food off of plates on our laps. Emily and I walk around sometimes. Mostly we listen to the adults talking and laughing. We make s’mores when it gets later. Hyping up on the sugar from the wonderful gooeyness. I love s’mores.
When it’s really getting late, Emily and I head inside, leaving the adults to continue their little party. We shower the lake water and sand off and change into pajamas but we never go to sleep at a decent time. Our room is hot and we’re always sweating which makes it hard to sleep. So instead we talk and laugh. We listen to music off of our phones. We gossip. We watch YouTube videos. We do anything but sleep.
Emily is always the first one to go to dreamland. I stay awake for a while longer. Through our open window I can still hear my parents and their friends laughing and talking. I can hear the crackle of the fire still burning. I can hear the crickets chirping. I can hear the water lapping the shore as if the lake was directly next to me. I remember all the good laughs we had that day. I think of all the fun the next day will bring.
My favorite summers were ones that included days at Higgins. Days with my best friend, family, and our family friends. Days spent away from the rest of the world. Days spent mostly in our swim suits. Days spent smelling like sunblock and lake water. Days spent laughing and smiling and feeling so at peace. Those were my favorite summers.