For those of you who don't know, which is probably everyone, my birthday is July 1. When I was younger, my family would spend two weeks at our cabin every summer, usually over my birthday. Some years I would resent this because, even though I never had many friends, it would have been fun to have a proper birthday party once in a while.
But, looking back on the days when I wasn't being moody about my birthday, I find my fondest childhood memories revolve around those sunny days at the lake.
When I was three and for the first few years thereafter, my family slept in a tiny trailer, just big enough for the four of us and the dog. My parents built a screen porch where we could sit when it rained or when the bugs were bad. My brother and I spent countless hours coloring and playing games and helping my dad cook dinner over the campfire.
A few years later we built a tiny cabin, only 25'x25'. My brother and I shared an 8'x8' bedroom...with two twin beds inside, not even bunk beds! The inside walls were framed but we didn't have the money to put up sheetrock for several years. Instead, my mom hung cheery red and orange plaid bedsheets over the walls to give everyone a bit of privacy.
My brother and I would stay up late, we'd peek through the sheets to secretly watch the movies our parents were watching. Sometimes, after a long night of sitting out by the fire, they'd come inside and cook "breakfast". My brother and I would pretend that the cooking noises woke us up. The four of us would sit around the tiny table and eat eggs and bacon, my parents laughing because they were tipsy, my brother and I laughing because we were eating breakfast in the middle of the night.
Most days my brother and I would run around the woods, exploring, building forts and having adventures. During the hottest part of the day we'd all head out in the pontoon boat and spend hours swimming and bobbing along on the tiny waves. I never liked swimming pools but I couldn't get enough of our lake. I was (and still am) terrified of weeds and even though I knew there were no weeds out in the middle of the lake, it took great willpower to stretch my feet down as far as they'd go. There's a point where the water gets cold, the thermocline. When you're brave enough to stretch your vulnerable feet down into the deep, the chill on your toes is exquisite.
The opposite happens while wallowing in the shallows. The sun warms the water to near bathtub temperatures. It's an odd feeling, laying stretched out in water that doesn't completely cover your body. It's a light and heavy feeling, the water buoys and gravity presses. The sand gets caught in the lapping waves and swirls around your skin and in your hair. It's easy to hear, with your ears under the water, the pebbles clattering against each other, rolling about in the constant waves. There is the odd sensation of belonging to two worlds, the half of you below the water is warm, safe, content. The half above is vulnerable, chilled by the wind against your still-wet skin.
I saw this fabric today:
It's from Heather Ross's Mendocino line of quilting fabrics. I've considered buying it before. Several times I've been thisclose to hitting the "final payment" button. And yet today, for the first time, it meant more to me than just "pretty fabric". The sight of this print in particular brought back shallow water memories, swirling sand memories, torn between two worlds memories.
Have you been there before? Do you know what it feels like?
I ended up buying a half yard of 31 prints in this fabric line, an investment that made me feel a little sick and a lot exhilarated. I finally bought it because I haven't been swimming in our lake for years, because I miss the sand swirling in my hair, because I miss my other home, the other place where I belong.