My grandfather Garth began stopping by my house on random Friday afternoons when I was 6 years old to ask his daughter, my mom, if I could go to the cottage with him. I was so excited to go off with my Grandpa, we talked about the great things we would do, while my mother would rush around throwing clothing into a paper grocery bag for me. Then as she brushed me out the door she would tell me to be good, give me a quick kiss and we were off. Our journey to Houghton Lake was filled with discovery and my job was to watch for the notable landmarks like the Jesus sign, an american flag made of bricks and the smiley face in West Branch. The most essential parts of the ride was giving Grandpa his “haircut”. I would sit or kneel in the back seat and slowly pull a comb through his hair and he would tell me when a spot needed extra attention. I think he loved this more than anything. He had an endless supply of questions for me and the patience to sit and listen, feigning surprise about each childhood discovery and sharing stories of the cottage. It was always a big deal when we finally reached mile marker 227 and turned off the freeway. We would talk through the whole migration around the lake, past the airport, the Duck Inn and the Four Seasons party store until finally arriving at the north shore of Houghton Lake. The paradise of children and adults alike, our cottage, where everything was fun. Between fishing trips my grandfather often encouraged forays into the wet lands across from our family cottage. His nickname for me was the “Swamp Rat” and he used to wake me up calling out “It’s daylight in the swamp!” The swamp and everything around our cottage was my playground. This is where my maternal family had grown up, this place was priceless, the time here was, irreplaceable. A rich source of memories earned over decades by my aunts, uncles and their friends. The next generation was beginning their experience and I am the oldest of many cousins, the first adventurer to start creating memories of grandpa Garth. I share similar stories with the cousins of fishing, archery, raking leaves in the fall and, once I was old enough, mowing the lawn. Grandma Sally taught me to knit, crochet, do puzzles or just sit and listen to stories of her children when they were growing up. The musty smell of that old cottage, of years of humid, still air and mildew come and gone is strong in my memory. That smell still makes me miss my Grandpa.
Do you have a favorite memory or place from your childhood?
What are some of the things your grandparents taught you that you are grateful to have learned?
What memories do you want for your children or younger friends or family members?