Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Welcome to Packer's Country- How May I Help You?"

As a rule, I do not enjoy road trips. The long, cramped hours in the car make me claustrophobic, not to mention bored out of my mind. But this four-hour journey to the place in northern Wisconsin where I have spent ever summer of my childhood does not bother me anymore. Sometimes I even have fun while singing the lyrics to Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love” with my mom in the car.
My family and I rose before the sun did, with the car entirely packed and all of the three dogs (and the cat the size of the dogs) in tow. Pal, the oldest of the animals, a beautiful and blind English cocker spaniel who has a salt and pepper combination sprinkling his soft fur and a majestic way of walking that leaves no doubt in your mind that he was born to show, was sprawled across my lap in the already overcrowded car. His company, how ever uncomfortable it may be, is welcome always, as he is one of the most loving and friendly creatures I have ever had the pleasure to know.
The incessant impatience of the drivers in the suburbs of Chicago soon turned into the lazy drivers of farm trucks and lawnmowers as the paved parks turned into farm fields with ancient silos that were more often the subject of a paintbrush than that of actual use. The land was green this year, greener that I am use to, with different hues of lush moss and leaves stretching until your eyes meet the sparkling blues and grays of Lake Michigan.
I doubt that you could call this place anything but charming (and on certain weekends, it becomes a charming little tourist trap as well). The entire neighborhood falls under the category of “historical site” with the houses clearly belonging to another era and time entirely. I have even found an one hundred year old medicine bottle in a tree stump. We have the whole package. The views that still to this day take my breath away, the fish boils, the bratfests (both of which are remainders of the heavy Swedish heritage and influence of the town) and the one hundred year old ice cream parlor with the red booths, the tiny juke box at every corner and the black and white check tile that decorate the floor (pretty much the original Johnny Rockets). Our local movie theatre is one of the last drive-in theatres left in the country, with the only normal theatre a forty-five minute drive out of town. We always see the movies about two weeks after their release date because the drive in can only play two movies a night. The nearest target is an hour away and we only really have one or two gas stations.
Sailing is our family’s common sport, something that I have enjoyed since I was the age of eight or nine. Most of my cousins are at least sailing instructors, if not sailing protégées, a title that at the moment, I neither want to assume nor feel that I ever could assume. The yatch club shouldn’t really be called a yatch club. A title such as community center would be much more relevant to what it is. I know everyone there, and the kids that I have grown up with here are my only social circle. Sometimes it gets lonely, but I would not want it any other way.
So this is what my summers are made up of: swimming and sailing and beautiful views and family. Tons and tons of family. These are the people who I wouldn’t trade the world for. My family up here is made up of both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family. It’s how they met, up here where their two families had been friends for generations. Being the youngest on both sides of the family, I have grown up at adult cocktail parties. We are all very close, especially among the cousins. I think that this summer it is expected of me that I become the designated driver (although I insisted it does actually work like that).
There are so many things that I could tell you about this place. The green boat with the red sails that goes out every single day, no matter the weather conditions. The way my dogs howl whenever a siren goes by. The countless picnics I have taken to near by islands on our small motorboat where I have pounded up and down in the front like a jackhammer with the waves. The millions of sailboat races where tears have been shed over lost hats or other items that can now be found at the bottom of the lake, or the other ones where I have come home with a trophy of some sort. The way the water laps away at the shore, and the way you can almost hear the water echo within the lake itself, making being by this water one of the most unique things you have everyone. The times when I go and sit in my tree house and look at the stars, or view the old barn that is covered in the huge scrawl of colorful names that belong to those who have been there. I could tell you more about the watchtower up on the bluff where you can see all the way to Green Bay, Wisconsin if you go on a clear day. I could tell you the Native American legends about the cliffs in the bluff across the bay. The green house that I live in which once belonged to my great grandma, my grandma, my mom, and hopefully me one day too. The bats that fly around our house at night or the wildflower patch up in my grandmother’s house. But no matter how I describe it, this place has an indescribable beauty that you have to experience to understand. It’s magic.

This place where I have spent my childhood summers is also the place where I first learned to love to read. It took me many summers, but as I said, it can be incredibly lonely up here too, so eventually, you learn to pick up a book. So about four or five years ago, I picked up a story called “Hope Was Here.” I don’t know what was about that book that made me pick it up. I didn’t identify with the character, she was years and years older than me, and I had no way to understand those kinds of circumstances, but this book opened up my eyes to what it means to read a really, really good book. People say that a good story happens when you take ordinary people and twist their lives to such an extent that they become truly interesting. In many ways, I agree, and this book falls under that category to unequivocally, but also, there is no doubt that this story could and probably does happen in people’s everyday life. This book is also the first book that I ever re-read. I have read it every summer since I first picked it up. So if you are looking for a shorter, really astounding, heartfelt and emotionally powerful book to read this summer pick up “Hope Was Here” by Joan Bauer, a Newberry Honor Book.

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