Tag Archives: Bowers Road

The Lake House (Continuing)

jen at lake house

Jennifer and Cindy, Christmas morning, 1972

Beyond helping me to remember when events happened, having children gave me a reason to take pictures. For years, I took pictures every day! I bought one role of film every week with groceries. I had to! I could see my daughter changing, learning, growing…how could I not record the process?

When my husband and I sat down to discuss the budget, the amount I spent at the grocery store was  an issue. We were always behind on payments. Utilities were often on the verge of being turned off. The rent – owed to my husband’s parents – was constantly behind. After a year or so of that arrangement, they offered to sell us the house, with the agreement that we would actually make the payments. Fair enough, it seemed. After that, we were constantly behind on the land contract. Other than my husband’s allowance (for gas for his truck, coffee or lunches at the restaurant, cigarettes if he ran out, a night out to “practice with the band”), groceries were the only variable expense. Since he felt his allowance was sacred and untouchable, cuts had to be made in the grocery bill.

Item by item, we would talk it through. I was a careful shopper, so food was rarely an issue. Sometimes it was suggested that I cut out some of the fresh fruits or vegetables, but that argument never went far. I didn’t buy pop, beer or snack foods. Paper diapers, baby food and formula were a necessity, when we had a baby in the house. No argument there. Sometimes I had to defend one cleaning product or another, but that was easy enough. I wasn’t a very good housekeeper, so anything to encourage me was okay. Then it came to my wasteful, unnecessary purchases. I defended them so often, I can remember the words exactly.

“Yes, one skein of yarn! One dollar and thirty-nine cents, only. I am working on Christmas presents. That afghan for your parents [never finished, by the way], the slippers, the toys…”

Family Circle magazine is my only luxury! Thirty-five cents! How is it going to fix our budget, even if I give up the one thing I buy just for myself??” [I poured over those magazines and saved them as if they were gold…or National Geographic!]

“One role of film! Isn’t our daughter worth one role of film?”

So, I always had film, and I took pictures every day. Unfortunately, there was no money for developing the film (that was another argument, categorized under “the sacrifices I have made”). Years later, when I sent them off to Fuji Film for processing, most of the photos came back blurry and dark. Of those, it seems like the best ones have gone: to the baby books I put together for my daughters; to Terry, after our divorce, so he’d have some of the baby pictures, too; to my children and grandchildren when something caught their eye. Just because of the sheer quantity, I still have a few blurry images.

From them, it is definitely clear what a cute little girl I had, but it’s not really possible to get an idea of the layout of our little house. Because I’ve wasted so much time reliving arguments and laying the groundwork, the actual inside of the Lake House will have to wait.

The Lake House (Outside)

grandma b 001

Grandma B, at the Lake House before I lived there

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.