It wasn’t ever glamorous or extravagant.
Little rented cottages on small inland lakes. Once a year for a week.
Mom, Dad, Kate, Chris, and then later, Michael.
Up and down the west half of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Glen Lake, Big Star, Bel aire, Pentwater.
Dad fished, Chris and I swam and played in the sand and ran amok, and mom read book after book after book.
Days were long and lazy and flavored with the sweet taste of that one can of Faygo we were allowed each day.
They smelled like sand and lake water on our bathing suits and grill smoke in our hair.
They felt like tight, sun stretched skin and itchy mosquito bites.
There was never a TV, so after dinner we went on drives.
My dad loves drives. He has always loved taking the “back way” to get places. Avoiding major roads so he can take in the scenery…and look for deer.
My mom was just as content to ride or sit at the cottage reading a book, so we rode.
Chris and I liked it for about 2.5 seconds. Then we would get bored.
One year, up near Sleeping Bear Dunes, we went for an evening drive. To look for deer*.
The trip got long.
We were packed in the family car driving and driving and driving.
And because we were near the lake, the roads weren’t straight shots; we were winding through thick woods very slowly.
It felt later than it was because the trees blocked out the evening sun. There was no looking ahead because our eyes were met by a wall of forest and a tight curve.
Up and down hills.
My dad explained that these roads were made from old Indian trails, so they weren’t straight.
I begged for the window to be put down a little further. I was feeling sick.
There were no deer here.
In fact, in the hours we were driving, there were no deer anywhere. The “drive” was a bust.
And I was pretty sure we were lost.
But my dad kept up his cheerful facade.
“Dad. The only thing we have seen are squirrels,” I whined.
My mom even had to reluctantly agree that this drive was turning sour.
But my dad was persistent, and in a last ditch effort to rally the troops, he made up a little rhyme:First ya see a squirrel, then ya see a deer. The only thing that’s missing… is a can of beer!
We all just stared.
The car was completely silent.
Then? Raucous laughter erupted from the backseat while my mom picked her jaw up from the floor mat and stammered, “TOM! That is just…well you can’t…that isn’t APPROPRIATE!”
But the damage was done.
The entire drive back to the cottage, Chris and I joyfully sang our new song.
All the while my mom made us promise to never sing it in front of anyone we know.