Summers at the Lake

Seeing the boats painted by reminds me of the summers I would spend at the lake with my grandparents. My grandfather had bought a piece of land and built a cabin out there. They lived there for many years. My grandmother would get lonely so I would spend summers with her at the cabin. She never learned to drive a car, did not have a phone and had no tv channels to speak of. Maybe one tv channel would come in when the weather was nice, same way with the radio. My brothers, sisters and cousins would come out on the weekends to swim and fish.

My grandfather had built a paddle boat and we kids spent many a day riding around the lake on it. He also had a little fishing boat and we would fish for bluegill from the lake. The house sat partway up on a hill. It got steeper as you climbed. We liked to climb to the top and look down at the lake and all around us as far as we could see. Right behind the house, Papa had a little fish cleaning station. He would clean the bluegill fish we kids had caught and Grandma would fry ’em up. She must have had the patience of Job to fry up all those little fish, but oh we kids were so proud of our work.

During the week my grandmother and I would play monopoly (without the money, she said it took too long to finish the game if you used the money) and she taught me how to play cards using matchsticks or a pile of pennies for currency. We played a game that she called “Tong” I believe, but I can’t remember how to play it. We had loads of fun playing cards. On Friday nights there would be Bingo games at the community center and we would go. Since Grandma couldn’t drive, we would walk all the way around the lake to get there because the community center was on the other side. It seemed I would win at least once, and she would always say, Heln’ann, you are the luckiest little girl! I felt like it, walking back to the cabin with some change jingling in my pocket. We would get back to the cabin and each of us get a square of the king size chocolate bar she kept in the fridge. I thought SHE was the luckiest girl to always have a king size chocolate bar, and I thought she must be rich to be able buy one every week.

As they say, those were the days. No tv, no cell phone, just me and Grandma and the lake. As I grew up and started my own family, going to visit her remained a special treat for me. She and Papa had long sold the cabin and moved back to ‘town’. I do miss her. She had her own pronunciation of my name. Her name was Helen, my Aunt’s name was Helen and so to keep us all straight, my family always used my middle name, calling me Helen Ann. But Grandma always made it sound like one word: Heln’ann. When I would visit, she would always have pie and coffee. She would cut the pie in quarters. You did not get a slice of pie when you visited Grandma, you got 1/4th of the pie! What I would give today to drive up that long driveway, hear the squeaky screen door shut behind me, and Grandma say. “Heln’ann, you wanna piece of pie and a cup of coffee?”

I paint boats, I paint water, I paint farmhouses, birds and pets, bits and pieces of me and my childhood. And I always think of my folks.

These were painted at various times over the past year. I have never tried to paint a paddleboat or a bluegill, but perhaps I will.

We had a nice Thanksgiving, simple, quiet, and with time to reflect on years past. I hope everyone else had a special Thanksgiving with their families as well.



  1. Helen, A great story of your visits to your grandparents, who were very important figures in your upbringing! Our grandparents are among the sweetest human beings in our lives. May her memory be for a blessing. Thank you!

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