Each year, when I’ve found myself counting the days until school lets out, it’s been in anticipation of the muscle-clenching release I’ve been dreaming about for the last two months, fast approaching amid the flurry of finals, recitals, parties and projects.
Usually, there’s a list of purely mind-numbing activities to look forward to, and they all have to do with a place my family is both proud of and deeply embarrassed by.
The Lake House.
The lake house is where my folks live.
The lake house is where the rest of us want to live.
The lake house is where the summer unfolds itself like a giant picnic blanket, still holding all of last year’s ants and sandwich crusts. It’s beautiful. And horrible. And we love it.
Swimming is a big part of the summer escapades. The lake we swim in is manmade. Not for people, but for a rather large and unbecoming power plant. Apparently, nuclear power plants are big babies when it comes to getting just a little uncomfortable with the sticky Virginia heat.
The plus side to swimming in a lake that’s used to cool down a power plant is that you can basically pop on your swimming togs come mid-May and keep them sopping wet until just before Thanksgiving.
The downside is that in August, when the term sweltering takes on new meaning—and you swear you’ll never use it out of context again—the lake is actually warmer than your January bath temperature preference. The fish go deep.
But according to folks who’ve only heard about the lake and like to poke fun at it, it’s not much of an issue to find the fish in the first place, as all things residing in the water glow in the dark and are two headed. If you can’t see where to cast, at least you’ve improved your chances of catching something by 50% simply because if one head isn’t hungry, the next one might be.
The fact that there are still plenty of folks who fly the Confederate flag is always a touchy subject. It’s difficult to admire someone’s ‘artful’ decision to do so from the perspective that they might truly believe it still is the national standard, and if you attempt correction, you’ll soon see an impressive array of shotguns that will have you dancing a quick two-step off their property.
Boats are judged not based on length, expense, or manufacturer, but rather decibel level. If you’ve the capability to make the experience of passing by your boat a duplicate to thirty seconds at a monster truck rally, you have finally tweaked your engine to its cherry spot.
The Fourth of July celebrations (most often starting the first of June) are always difficult to pinpoint. No one is ever certain if the neighbor a few docks down has a lawnmower that they’ve set to backfire just to spice up the weekly routine, is testing out a few homemade cherry bombs before the big event, or lost a hand of Mississippi Stud and is taking it out on the nearest beer cans in quick succession with whatever happened to be closest and loaded.
Finding yourself inundated with BBQ shacks, smoke-filled and grease-splattered, will leave you with an experience that is both calorically impossible to work off until next spring and addictive enough to become habitual. I show absolutely no judgment on my face when waltzing the isles of the local Wal-Mart, as I know if I lived next to Bubba’s Pig Patio all year round, my photo would doubtless be included in one of the mass emails of the monthly Wallyworld Wonders.
Watching the sun sink below the silky warm ripples of a quieting lake with a sweating glass of highly-herbed gin, bitter quinine-spiked tonic water, and a puckeringly tart wedge of lime will leave you breathless and filled with childlike wonder as the fireflies flicker in the blades of freshly mown grass and beneath the eves of sharp, sappy pine boughs.
The end of the summer comes at the same frightening speed as one of the occasional stray bullets that whiz past the side of the house, leaving a fresh graze on an old paint job. But the open wound soon becomes just another tale to reminisce during Christmas break when you’re outside lacing bushes with a netting of twinkling lights and setting up a crèche that puts you in a forgiving mood.
Okay, I’m kidding about the crèche. We don’t actually have one, but most folks around the lake are so excited for the Christmas season to start, there’s barely a day between taking down the red, white and blue bunting before the nailing of rain gutter icicles begin.
Leaving the lake house is usually fraught with my kids’ somber faces and grumpy dispositions. My folks, on the other hand, have a slight spring in their step and find it difficult to hold back their gleeful anticipation, knowing that within days, frat boys will disappear, no longer leaping from the rooftops of neighboring boathouses into the water, rap music will cease being the echoing film score to each meal eaten outside, and shortly the lake will be filled with nothing more than old bass boats drifting quietly along the shorelines. Ah, bliss.
We love it.
We hate it.
The lake house.
Don’t forget to check out what’s cooking this week in the Scullery (here) and what folks are talkin’ bout down at the pub (here)!
11 thoughts on “Bubba, Bass & BBQ”
I LOVE it! Brings back fond memories of Bluestone Lake, a wide spot in the New River in southern West Virginia, where I hear they still perform the “Hatfields and McCoys” as summer theatre nearby. Ah, Bubbaland, or as we used to call them in my family’s hometown of Alderson, the “Zeke’s”. Some things never change – well maybe the size of the outboards – I hear they run up to 1,500 horsepower now, or at least twin 750’s. The good thing about them is that they go by at Mach.45 so the sound is more liken a thunderclap than a Monster Truck, Have great summer at Lake Anna! Keep these gems comin’.
I’ve got my earplugs for the boats, a freshly cleaned Mason jar for the fireflies and a small still set up to keep the gin flowing. I’m feeling prepared. Long live June, July & August! 🙂
Glow in the dark fish … cool! Sounds like a wonderful fun place. Thanks! Gary. P.S. Er …uh … the “WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION” … is over?
It took me a while to understand that when folks used the words Mason and preserving in the same sentence down here, many a time they weren’t talkin’ Ball jars.
Oh magnet-south! O glistening perfumed south! my south! O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love! good and evil! Oh all dear to me.
– Walt Whitman
p.s. I too love that lake house; however never before have I visited such a wonderous, historic site of when simply traveling to purchase gas did I believe that I should have considered to have taken my passport and a translator along. That, and an extra $20 or a 40 ounce can of beer in case I needed to quickly make friends.
Oh, and when entertaining the idea of going out for breakfast, when the waitress with the bouffant beehive tells you the Virginia ham is “just a little salty,” and the biscuits and gravy is a good start, become suspicious and keep smiling as you make sure you finish everything she gave you.
Yup. Virginia ham is just a little salty like the Pope is just a little religious. It’s what I use in the winter when we run out of salt licks for the deer.
You paint a very clear picture of what Heaven must be.
So true, Saryl. Heaven had better have fireflies. Fingers crossed I’m allowed to find out.
Love your humor and the description of southern rural life. Like sweet and salty go together, love and hate of such places do too.
Absolutely true! Sweet and salty, love and hate, guns and ammo. Usually in this order. 🙂
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