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2005-06-16 - 7:32 p.m.

Meme Time

Okay, all. I'm being deflowered. After making it 6 months or so as a meme-virgin, Mistress Mary has tagged me to write about five things I miss from my childhood.

That sounds like fun. These rules sound (yes, I agree, Mary) like a chain letter. But whatever. I just work here.

The rules:
Remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump everyone up one place; add your blog's name in the #5 spot. You need to link to each of the other blogs for the desired cross-pollination of your chosen blogs.
1. Cerebral Outpost
2. JustAskJudy
3.Angie at HomeGrown
4. Mistress Mary
5. Lakeline...I don't know
Next, select 4 new friends to tag. Obviously, no one is required to participate, but I would love to hear what these people have to say:

Dawnie - Because she knows I'll give her beer. Not that I wouldn't anyway. She's cool like that so I try to provide her with beer often.

Space-Case - We've recently discovered that we may just be long-lost twins. Also, she makes me think that I just might NOT wuss out on my plan to start running.

Leonie - (sorry. I'm not talented enough in HTML to get your adorable little accent over the e to show up) She makes me laugh out loud with every post. That's an accomplishment.

Alektra - She asked for a topic to write about! Also, this one is nice and upbeat and may take her mind off of wedding planning for a bit.

1.) My lake -

lake with thunderstorm

I grew up on a lake in northern Michigan, with boats, jet-skis, a water trampoline. As much as I love Chicago, when it gets hot I desperately miss when my parents put some beer, wine, and pop in a cooler and the five of us (and the dog) piled onto the flote-boat (it's a brand of pontoon boat, if you're not familiar with the term) after work. Then we would head out to the middle of the lake, where we all jumped off the boat and swam around it, got back on and diving off the floor, seat, or railing depending on how brave we were feeling. Later, when waitressing at the country club across the lake, I would often roll up my khakis to my knees and take the jet-ski to work. There's not much that can really get me homesick, but thinking about walking 50 feet from my front door to my beautiful lake will do it every time.

2.) Shelley & Rex -
When I was born (until I was about 5), Shelley the Irish Setter lived with me. My mom would give me a Zwieback and the dog a milk-bone, and we would trade. Because we loved each other and I (apparently) really liked dog biscuits when I was young. Shelley was loving like that -- she would happily trade her tasty, wonderful milk-bones for my icky, gums-shredding Zweiback. And I respected her right back! I was a slightly passive-agressive youngster (I've fully grown out of that, of course...), and I feeling a bit rebellious about the whole potty-training concept. So instead of going in the potty, I went in Shelley's water dish. Then I (very kindly) picked up the dish and poured the contents into the my training potty. I didn't want her drinking pee water! I just wanted to make my point about the pottying silliness.

After Shelley, we got Rex. His full name was Tyrannosaurus Rex (that's what happens when you let a kindergarten-aged me name the dog), and he was half Black Lab and half Irish Setter. He looked like a thin Yellow Lab though. Rex grew up with me, and lived until I went to college -- he had a pretty darn good life. He got to go on walks, never had to be on a leash, put up with me when I decided to be in Dog 4-H for a while even though I'm sure he hated every minute of it. I taught him to sit up and beg like a Lhasa Apso even though he was a darn big dog. He was never officially trained as a hunting dog, but in the last couple of years of his life, my dad made a chance discovery. Rex was an incredible tracking dog. While deer hunting, my dad had lost the trail of a deer he shot and needed to find it (contrary to much popular belief, many hunters do love animals and would never want to see one die slowly of a wound or starvation or anything else. Let me know if you need a run-down on why hunting is necessary and humane in most cases). He tried and tried, and when he got desperate he came back home, picked up Rex, and showed Rex the end of the blood trail. Rex led him straight through a snowy swamp and to the wounded deer. That's a pretty smart dog to know exactly what his owner wants when he's never been trained to it. He loved everyone, but he growled at my uncle when who was roughhousing a little too hard with my sister -- so we knew he was letting him know it was time to settle down. After a few too many cases of swimmer's itch*, we taught him the command, "Get the ducks!" and he would run to the lake, launch himself into the water, and swim off after the ducks that were getting a little too close to our swimming area. We had to be careful with this one, though, because he was so dedicated to his task he would swim until he exhausted himself -- we had to make sure to call him back before he got out too far.

3.) My grandparents -
Sadly, I don't remember my dad's parent's very well. I remember what they looked like and that they were kind and loving to me, and that they had dogs and bunnies and ducks. And popcorn balls at Halloween. Come to think of it, that's not a bad way to be remembered by a little kid! I wish I could have known them better.

My mom's parents, however, I remember very well. My Grandpa died of prostate cancer when I was in 8th grade. I never remember him from when he was sick, though, unless I really work to dredge up those memories. Instead I remember his huge, fuzzy eyebrows, booming laugh, and the fact that to this day I can't go anywhere in my hometown without hearing about what a great person he was. On Christmas, he would get out the German beer steins and the kids would get the ones that wound-up and played music when we picked them up. They were even filled with non-alcoholic beer!

My Grandma was an incredible person. She was healthy and strong and loving and smart, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the summer before I left home for college. She died that November. I still get frustrated when I remember that she had been complaining of stomach pains for years -- and none of her doctors figured it out until it was far too late. Unfortunately, though, that type of cancer is famous for causing stories like that. She was thoughtful. I like to imagine that sometimes, when I get a particularly good idea for what to get someone for a present, that she's helping me out a bit. For instance, when I was born she started a cookbook for me. By the time I graduated high school, it was filled to bursting with recipes that even included stories about where she had gotten them, and I spent months typing all of them out so that my sister and mom could have access to all of those stories and recipes. She also started a journal when I was a baby. It's not incredibly long, but it has some stories in it that describe me in both complimentary and somewhat non-complimentary ways -- and I treasure it for how her voice comes through.
An example from when I was 2 years old:

She loves insects and is fascinated by "creatures" as she calls them. One summer evening she, however, was very nearly disillusioned about them after picking up a large centipede-type wormlike creature. It sprayed her hand with a bright yellow substance. Having caught a fish-hook in her hand that day, she had a cut which burned and stung when the yellow stuff got into it. She screamed in pain, yelling, "It hurts -- it hurts!" Her father took her to the lake (they were out for a walk) and washed it off, but all the way home she yelled, "It peed on me! It peed on me!" with extreme outrage. The next day, however, she and her mother found another one and she showed as much interest as ever in the "creature."

4.) Bonfires -
We spent a lot of summer nights around a crackling bonfire on our beach. As a small child, I would swim in the dark until someone said something about a northern pike nibbling off my toes -- then I would shriek and dry off by the fire listening to my parents and their friends laugh. I would, of course, be back in the water the very next bonfire. When I got a bit older, my dad would build a bonfire for me and my friends, and we would sit down there until someone's curfew was up just talking and staring at the brightness of the fire and setting sticks on fire then putting them out in the lake.

5.) Camping -
Nearly every year (I can't remember exactly how often) until I was around middle-school-age, my family went to a state campground in the Upper Penninsula** right on Lake Superior. It was at the end of a (seemingly endless) dirt road, and the only store for miles was a little place*** that sold bait and candy, and rented canoes. We would set up the tent or camper, slather on the bug dope (The black flies could easily have killed you and then sucked your blood dry. They were the only drawback.), and run down to Lake Superior. There I (and my sister when she was old enough) would run in the lake and laugh and shriek about how nice the water was while our toes turned blue, and once we couldn't take it any more we would join the rest of the family and walk the beach enjoying the view and looking for agates.

*Swimmer's itch is a parasite that lives in snails. When ducks eat the snails, they poop out the parasite which gives you really annoying itchy (though harmless) red bumps. The two main ways to prevent it are to towel off vigorously after getting out of the water (except that I rarely actually left the water, so that wasn't a useful course of action) and to prevent the ducks from coming around and pooping.
Sidenote: This link describes the issue pretty well. When reading it, though, I nearly fell off my chair -- it was first identified in Douglas Lake, Michigan. Which is a.) only about 25 miles from where I grew up, and b.) where my mom spend many of her summers growing up. Who knew? Of course, with my (mildly) pathological aversion to parasites, I'm not particularly proud of that, but it's something I guess...

**Michigan's state motto (translated from the Latin) is: "If you seek a pleasant penninsula, look about you." No, I'm not kidding. Google it if you don't believe me.

***If you go to the links, you may find it weird that I seem to have been following Hemmingway's path around Michigan. I actually didn't know that he loved this river, and yes. It is weird, since I don't actually like his writing. Or his nephew (grand-nephew? I forget) who used to show up to township board meetings and just generally act like a whiny, over-priviledged asshole.

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