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Memories of Lake of the Woods

‘In my adult head, I still can visualize all the delightful vivid childhood memories at a place I haven’t seen since I was 6…’

A newer version of our Lake of the Woods cottage home.

Before I came to my beautiful West Coast Canadian lake, I used to journey with my parents and one sibling across Canada to a summer home on a lake that my grandparents owned. The lake is huge, and spans into parts of Ontario, Manitoba, and including into parts of the US. The property my grandparents had was quite large, especially compared to the tiny cabin I have now. The property was about 7 acres, and comprised of a large summer home, with several bedrooms, a guest cabin, with a couple of bedrooms, and a work shop and laundry on the back end, 2 multi-leveled boathouse structures, each with their own docks, a grassy circular tennis court, not far from the house, and a small, private sandy beach through the property on another side. It was quite the place. A family member painted two delightful paintings of 2 locations on this property, and I surely enjoy these lovely scenes done in vivid greens and blues today. I have them hanging in my home.

The view down to the little family beach (after a left turn) painting.

The bunk house cabin painting.

I have so many memories of this property, and yet, I only went there until I was 6 years old. The mind of a child is a spectacular thing. 

I have memories of picking blueberries, juicy and sweet, from along the paths, that my brother and I plopped into our morning hot oatmeal. We would sit on the stone slab steps along the path and eat our oatmeal right out there.

Chocolate milk and snacks out on the path.

I remember that my grandmother would garden, and brush the tendrils of her beautiful, auburn hair with the back of her gloved hand. I remember that she said that the only time she would drink a beer, was when it was poured very cold, and served on a very hot day, (and she always poured it into a tall glass, she never drank from a container). What a lady she was. I remember the times I played ‘Super Heroes’ with my brother, as we wore towels pinned at our necks, and we ran through the forests, leaped over logs, and jumped off small mounds and rocks, laughing. I remember the round, rather large ant hills, and the nasty black, slimy leaches. We always had a salt shaker on each dock, and did a body search after every swim. If we got a leach, on went the salt, until the slimy critter shriveled and let go of our skin leaving a tiny red spot where it had latched on to feast.

Whereas the water churned by a boat wake here at my lake is a beautiful shade of turquoise-blue, the water churned at Lake of the Woods was a muddy, greenish-yellow. Apparently, it is the mineral components in the water, and algae content, with the sunlight reflections, and also possibly the pollens local to the area that determine the different lake water colours like that. I remember the big electrical storms they had there, with the deafening boom of the thunder and the wild, bright fork lightening that flashed across the sky in a blink of an eye. We often all watched it all from the large dining table by the front window that faced the lake. I remember being anxious and afraid, but still in awe watching the storms from safely inside. My mother told me once that my father was swimming during a storm and lightning struck the water, she said my father’s hair went straight up on end and he looked really funny. She said it was shocking! She also told me my father dove down so deep once, that he almost drowned, because his ear drum burst, and he lost all sense of direction for up and down. Luckily, he just swam up towards the light. I remember that three generations of family went skinny dipping in the mornings. The women would go first, my grandmother, my mother, and myself. The men would then be putting on the coffee. Then the men would go, my grandfather, my father and my brother, while the women cooked breakfast. To this day, I love to go for a skinny dip in the mornings. These days, I do it alone, though. It’s fabulous to swim naked, one of my very favourite things to do in the whole world, although, these days, I usually wear a strapless swim dress with nothing underneath. This way I’m modestly covered, in case of people around, and I feel the freedom of the water on a lot of bare skin.  I remember the sleek wooden boat, the iconic Chris-Craft, that we boated in, and went to town in, and I remember we could park the boat on a dock and go and buy groceries right there, as the supermarket was adjacent to the docks. What a gorgeous watercraft that boat was. I wonder if it is still around? Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I heard it was hit by a water taxi and sunk. I cannot substantiate the story now.

We'd travel by boat to do full-day picnics at a big beach.

I remember that my brother and I had some newly designed swimsuits, that had floatation built in around the neck, mine was in a blue plaid pattern, and my brothers was in red plaid. Yes, I do have a picture of us as little humans standing on the dock wearing these suits as we squinted into the sun for the picture. The floatation parts of the suits around our neck were also covered in the matching fabric, very cute! I guess it was a good idea at the time, although I’m the words ‘feels like being strangled’ pops into my head. 

I took my neck ring part of the swim suit off.

I remember my favourite floatation device was a large plastic, blow-up gray shark, which I had named, ‘Shelly, the Shark’. She went on all our boating adventures, and I played for hours floating on her. One place we used to go and I’d drag her along, was a very long boat trip up the lake to a very large public beach. It was several miles away, and I remember it took a long time to travel to get there by boat. We always packed a lot of stuff, including Shelly, the Shark, and blankets and towels and a delicious picnic. It was a full afternoon outing. Probably, my worst memory was the day we went on one of these outings and we decided to make a pit stop by an old empty boathouse. The men tinkled outside in the bushes, and the women went into the boathouse, where we dropped our panties and leaned out to pee. I fell backwards, panties around my ankles into the water. I was so embarrassed. To this day, I think that was one of my most embarrassing moments of my life. Funny, how this little incident affected me. I was wet all afternoon from falling in. In a boatload of people, I was appalled I’d been so clumsy. No one scolded me, I just was plain embarrassed. I remember all this, and I must only have been 5 or so years old. I remember my brother and I played for hours on this smooth rock on the grassy area between the main summer house and the screened in bunk cabin. We played with his Hot Wheels miniature cars, running them over the rocks’ imaginary roads. We played there for hours. I remember how this rock’s topography would allow for tiny lakes after a rain. I remember that one bathroom was very near to the kitchen, and so, if you used that bathroom and made any stinky smells, you were supposed to light a match to help cover up the stench. Okay, when I think back on it now, I’m a 6-year-old lighting matches? I survived. I remember the game of Chinese Checkers we played on the big table by the window, I can’t remember the last time I played that game. I preferred to play with marbles, I loved that they had so many cool colours and designs in the tiny glass spheres. I remember the large stoned, floor to ceiling river rock face, on the fireplace, next to where we dined and played table games as a family. I remember my grandmother’s gorgeous wooden, shell-covered jewellery box on her dresser. My mother later had that box, and now I am wondering how my brother ended up with it. I loved that box.  I remember my mother was a sailor, and that when she was young she went to the lake yacht club and to the teen dances. She said she had so many fond memories of the lake growing up. I remember the buoy marker not far off our property in the front water channel, because there was a large rock formation there that was not down so deep. The marker alerted all boaters of the shallow, underwater rocks.

Looking out at Lake of the Woods.

  I remember eating little lunch sandwiches, cut into squares, while sitting on the front walkway, near the front stairs with my brother, still in our swim suits or in our summer wear, usually with hats on. My grandmother was always gardening around there, and so we often sat and played near her. Where was my mother? On a break, I guess.

Outside snacks.

I remember that tiny, little private beach on the property. We had to walk a bit to get there and it faced away from the rest of the lands and summer home. I have a wonderful picture of my family there. We often loved to swim and play there, as it was a beach. The property’s main docks had deeper waters, and so the beach was more suitable for little children to play. 

My grandmother, my brother and I on the little beach. Get a load of my bathing cap!

My brother and I in a little boat called the 'Pea Pod'.

I remember the heartbreak, years later, when my mother learned of a dear friend of hers having drowned at the lake. He came home one night from a dinner in town, on his own, and when he got out of the boat it was presumed he slipped and banged his head as he fell, because he drowned and his body ended up under the dock. Such a sad story. He was a childhood friend of my mother’s and she was, understandably, very upset.  I remember how we travelled across Canada. We flew, we drove, and once, we took a train. That was my favourite. I still have some clear memories of the train, including trying to sleep in that sleeping bunk when the train was clacking along all night. That wasn’t so fun, but looking out the window and watching the world go by for several days was wonderful!  Before we went to the lake we went to our grandparents’ house in a city in Manitoba, and then we all drove together to the lake. I remember bits about the house my grandparents had, and the city, and the zoo, we went to. I have the cutest picture of my brother and I sitting, both of us, in a cardboard box on the driveway of one of my grandparent’s houses, giggling.

Waiting to go to the lake.

These memories stream from my brain, and I enjoy them so much. To me it seems quite amazing that all these memories were created only until I was 6 years old. After that my grandparents sold the lake property, and then eventually moved to the West Coast of Canada to be nearer to us. I remember my father then signed the lease on my beautiful lake property when I was 8 years old. I have been enjoying my tiny, off-grid, one room cabin on the lake since then, 55+ years, and counting, I’m so grateful.

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You have captured beautiful memories in this post!

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