Summers and the lake

Every time I eat a Blueberry, my mind drifts back to the summers my family and I spent on Wolf Lake in upstate New York. I remember when …

I woke to the sound of the front door closing, my mother leaving for her only moment of peace … to fish in the early morning mist. My father was rattling in the kitchen. I rose quietly, not wanting to wake my brothers, crept down the stairs, and curled up in the corner of the couch, my night gown wrapped around my feet to fight the morning chill. My father handed me a cup of black coffee. I held it under my chin and let the steam warm my face while I listened to the comforting sounds of breakfast in the works; the eggs cracking, the refrigerator door opening and closing, and the spoon scraping against the big red and white enamel bowl. When he finished his prep and closed the oven door for the final time, he handed me a big plastic tumbler and sent me down to the lake to pick blueberries.

The lake was warmer than the cool morning air and a thick mist had formed. I did not see my mother and her rowboat, but I knew she was there. I heard the rhythmic squeak of her oars as she trolled for bass in the warm shallow waters along the opposite edge of the lake.

I watched a spider crawl along the damp leaves of the blueberry bush and curl into a ball when it hit a big water drop. Holding the branch and cup in one hand, I knocked the blueberries off their stems and heard them drop into the cup. I ate a few as I picked. It was the middle of July and they were just starting to ripen. Still tart, they would sweeten each day so that by early August they would be perfect. This time of year, the blueberries became a fifth food group. Blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberries in fruit bowl, blueberry pie, even blueberry sauce for ice-cream.

As I finished picking, my mother and her boat appeared from the mist. I helped pull the boat up on shore and headed back to the cabin before she could lift her catch from the water. I hated to see the fish hanging, gills agape strung on the line that she dragged behind the boat.

The morning quiet faded to chaos as my five brothers descended from the attic above. They warmed the chill from the room. Each maneuvered the tiny kitchen to get a cup of coffee. The first pot emptied and another started … which would soon be followed by another.

4 thoughts on “Summers and the lake

  1. Andy

    I need a blueberry now! I to have simliar memories of picking blueberries at our summer house and my sister cooking breakfast. This post brought back nice memories for me. Thanks!

  2. Lynn

    After college, Jean invited some friends up to her parent’s place on Wolf Lake. We all slept in the little open loft bedroom in the quaint little cabin. At the crack of dawn, I was jolted awake by the sound of a chainsaw. Jean’s mom, Jan, had set up sawhorses in the living room and was sawing away.
    I next heard Jean’s youngest brother Pete turn on his boom box. Jan stopped sawing long enough to yell “Pete! Turn that thing off. You’ll wake the girls!”
    Where was all this early morning quiet Jean touts? What time do you have to wake up to get some?
    Giving up on sleep, we went down and sat on the little dock overlooking the lake. Jean’s brother Steven rowed in with fish and proceeded to grill it. Fish for breakfast? I had never experienced freshly caught bass and have never had any so delicious since. Next, Jean’s dad, Vince, appeared in an apron, smiling magnanimously as he presented a basket of fresh popovers with home-made jam. They were fluffy buttery clouds of pure goodness. Sitting there on the outside deck in the morning mist, washing down the bass and the popovers with good strong coffee – this little slice of lake life was the best breakfast of my life.

  3. Pete

    As Jean’s little brother (ok, I’m 42 now!) her reminiscing is right on target. It brought back great memories of my childhood and the pure delight of something so mundane as breakfast in the works. Funny thing is, not much has changed. I just returned from a few days at the Lake with my wife and kids. While I’ve taken on my father’s roll as I prepared the popovers in the kitchen, it was like stepping back in time as my two kids awoke early and asked for plastic cups to go pick blueberries for breakfast. It easily could have been 35 or 40 years ago, and my kids could have easily been any of my brothers, my sister, me, or any of the untold hundreds of friends and their families who have had the past pleasure of waking up on a summer morning to hot coffee, mist rising off the Lake, and the incredible peacefullness that fills the cabin in the early hours. Hearing my kids calling to each other down by the water, directing the other to the best blueberry bush started my vacation off perfectly. Lynn is correct, though, that the peacefullness doesn’t last long. Once the day gets going there is always a project that turns into controlled mayhem for a few hours. Somehow, though, we always found time to swim, sail, fish, or just sit on the dock for awhile and soak up the sun. The afternoon always progresses into cocktail hour, a lively dinner, a late night bon fire, and the retelling of the same old stories, again and again. They seem to get funnier with every telling as we get older, and a few new ones always seem to sneak into the conversation. Thankfully, the morning Lake ritual continues the next day and pretty much every day that you’re there, until reality sets in and you have to go back to the real world where there are no blueberry bushes outside the front door, and for some reason, the coffee just doesn’t quite smell as good in the morning. It’s only been a few weeks since I was there, and I’m ready to go back.

  4. nancy

    Oh my gosh…I love this section, and hadn’t ever seen before! I feel blessed to have seen this idyllic cabin once upon a time, and though it was filled with young adults and no one had yet taken on the popover role, I can see it unfolding as Lynn tells it! What a joy. . What a family! What a blessing!

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