We moved to the “Lake House” when my daughter was five months old.
I don’t know how I ever managed to figure out when things happened, before I had children. Once I became a mother, all memories of events are in relation to my children’s ages at the time. It’s not a perfect system – it involves quite a bit of figuring out – but it’s do-able. For instance, Jennifer was three when she was the flower girl in my sister Cheryl’s wedding. From that information, I can figure out that I was twenty-three, my mother was forty-three, my brother Ted, twenty-one, sister Sheila, nineteen, Cheryl, eighteen, and on down the line. If I want to do the math, I could come up with the year. I know that my daughter, Kate was three years old when I first moved to Beaver Island and started working at the Shamrock; she was twenty-four when I left that job. My daughters were nine and twelve years old when I got divorced, so I was thirty-two. Ever since they’ve been grown up and are out of my house, things have devolved into “a few years ago,” “sometime in the recent past” or “once.”
Anyway, we moved to the Lake House when Jennifer was five months old. Terry and I were both nineteen; I was two months shy of my twentieth birthday. My in-laws had just bought a nice home on Five Lakes Road, and were moving. They wanted to rent their cottage on Lake Pleasant, and offered it to us. We thought we wanted to be out of town. My husband had spent many years in that house, with his parents and sister, so he knew the area. I’d grown pretty familiar with it, too, in the years since I first met Terry. It wasn’t perfect, but it was within our budget. 920 Martin Drive became our new address.
Martin Drive was one of many short, bumpy roads leading from Bowers Road down to the lake and the homes and cabins near it. Our house was almost at the end of the drive, on the left side. If you continued past our little house and driveway, there was one more house on the left, and straight ahead was an access point for the lake. It wasn’t quite like a beach, but it was a little nicer than a boat launch. It was used for both. Instead of going straight, you could turn to the right, right in front of our house. There, the road name changed, and led to another little drive which would also take you either down to the water or out to Bowers Road.
Because we were close to the water, there was a slope down to the lake. To keep things fairly level, the yards were terraced. Our driveway was just past the house. a half flight of cement steps led from the driveway up to the back door. In the other direction, we would step down into our neighbor’s yard.
There was just a tiny sliver of yard on either side of the house, and a postage stamp of lawn in front and back. We stepped up into the front yard from the driveway, too. It was a small space with a big flowering shrub in one front corner, and a hedge of spirea separating it from the road. I hated that prickly spirea hedge, and eventually tore it out. My ideas have changed over the years. If I had that house now, I’d do a lot of things differently. For one, I would definitely keep the hedge!
The house itself was a little lake cottage, over a basement that was accessible only from the outside. Here, we call that a Michigan basement. I wonder if it has another name in other places. The plumbing came up from the basement. That’s where the furnace was, too. And the fuse box. The doors to access the basement were in the back yard, slanted like a lean-to against the rear of the house.. When you pulled them up and laid them open, rough cement steps were revealed. The floor of the basement was damp earth. Cobwebs were plentiful! It looked like the perfect place for all kinds of critters.
Often, in the winter, our driveway was unusable. Then, my husband would park on the road or (once the hedge was gone) in the front yard. As the ground thawed in the springtime, his truck made deep ruts in the yard that we then spent all summer trying to get rid of. It was a constant cycle of tilling, raking and seeding before the next winter put us right back where we’d started.
One year, I tilled up the back of the driveway, and planted a garden. My daughter was just old enough to appreciate the magic of edible plants springing from the earth. She collected worms from the loose soil as I weeded. It was easy to tend and water the garden, right next to the kitchen; we had a bounteous harvest and many special meals featuring our home-grown vegetables.