Lazy Days on Lake Michigan - August 2012
Memories of Lake Michigan
I spent a week on Lake Michigan this past month with my family.I took all the photos shown here and even managed to do some painting on the beach. It stirred memories of Lake Michigan from my childhood in the halycon of those days of the 1950's.
I grew up going to the beach on Lake Michigan with my family in the summer. We didn’t live on the lake - - we lived one town away, but our town had beach privileges and we bought a seasonal summer time pass every year. My parents had grown up in towns on the lake and it seemed to have a special call to them in the summertime. My mother would take my brother and me two or three, some times four times every week. We would even go on days that were cloudy and maybe had a few sprinkles we were diehards. My mother even would take us when there were “seiche” warnings in hopes of seeing something grand, which never materialized, but the anticipation was lots of fun to speculate about being dragged out to the middle of the lake on a giant wave.
It was a long climb down to the beach so we would spend the whole day. We joined the other “beach families” along the lakefront and made summertime friends. I have eaten many a sandy peanut butter and jelly sandwich with soggy potato chips and washed it down with lemonade from a thermos bottle. We scampered up and down the beach, built sandcastles, plunged into the cold water to cool off and rinse off all the sand that stuck to our oiled bodies. As one of the younger kids, I always longed to be able to swim out to the sandbar with my brother and the bigger kids, but the water in between the shore and the sandbar was over my head, way over my swimming skills, so I stayed close to the shore for many years. After lunch we had to wait an hour to return to the water. We waited on the family blanket until the long hour had passed. We would nap, compare our darkening tanned arms and get re-oiled for the afternoon sun.
Around 2 or 3pm we would start packing up our gear and start the long climb back to the hot car. There was a foot fountain to rinse off our sandy feet at the top that always felt great after the long trek. My mother would sometimes stop on the way home and we’d get ice cream cones or chocolate sodas. When we got home we were rinsed off in the laundry tub in the cool basement and wrapped in towels that a had a chill from being in the basement.
On particularly hot summer days in the days before air conditioning, when my dad got home from work, we would go back to the lake for an early evening swim, so he could cool down after work. I always thought this was the best time to swim; there weren’t many other people around and the air temperature was only a little warmer than the water temperature. It seemed perfect. My parents would both swim. My dad would have me put my arms around his neck and I would ride on his back out to the sandbar with my brother swimming along side. My mom would paddle along the shoreline, doing the sidestroke to keep her hair dry. After everyone was cooled down, we’d head home to our summertime supper. In the summer we moved our meals out to the table on the back porch. I remember we would have summer menus of iced tea, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, tuna salad, and fresh peaches with sugar over vanilla ice cream.
The memories of those days are so happy and full of love. They ended with our adolescences when we didn’t want to go to the beach with our parents anymore. We went with our friends and were anchored to beach towels, listened to our transistor radios and worked our tans. As we got older we smoked, started using words like “shit”, “neat” and “cool” and didn’t do much swimming. We did still stop for ice cream, but we ate “coffee” or “pistachio” instead of chocolate and vanilla.
Lake Michigan still has a special hold on me. It’s “big-ness”, it’s fresh un-salty cold water, the white sand and smell of suntan lotion, fish and fresh air are still a siren song to me. Now I go hang out with my family and to be with my great-nieces and watch them frolic in the waves, dig in the sand to build castles, wrap in sandy towels and chase seagulls along the shore. I came back to Arizona this summer with a plastic bag of smooth stones I picked up on the beach in my suitcase. I put them on a plate on my coffee table as a reminder of being on the lake again and that I will be going back again next summer.