A Year of Gifts
What are some of your favorite childhood memories? Who is a part of those memories? Do any of them include special places?
My hope is we all have those times we enjoy traveling back to in our minds. Back to a time when we’d play more and worry less. If there was any screen time, it was Saturday morning cartoons.
When I close my eyes and let my mind wander back to my early years, I scan my memory banks for the things that still bring a smile to my face. The scenes I see in my mind's eye almost always include sunshine, warmth, and water.
During my pre-teen years, we had a camper parked in a spot on a reservoir just outside of the small town where I grew up. I can’t remember too much about the camper other than it was silver and curvy on the outside and walls were lined with wood paneling inside. It wasn't anything fancy (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of those coveted Airstream models), but boy did we have fun.
Mom worked half days, and we spent almost every summer afternoon out at the lake. We didn't care that the beach consisted of coarse sand or that the lake bottom was first rocky then mucky the further you walked into the water. We didn’t know anything different.
I remember my cousin trying to learn to water ski off the end of the wooden dock. Based on the wipe out he suffered, that was a flawed plan. I’ll never forget how my brother, who was no more than five at the time, chased my poor mother along the shoreline with a harmless garter snake in his hand, laughing all the way as she screamed in horror. And then there was the time Mom lost the diamond out of her wedding band. She was pretty sure she lost it somewhere at the campground. We scoured the grounds, hoping to find it for her. Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack! It may still be out there somewhere.
Eventually, my folks must have sold the camper. I think it was when they took up golf. Instead of lake time, we began spending summer afternoons at the swimming pool. Every hour, on the hour, the lifeguard would blow her whistle and kick us out of the water for ten minutes of "adult swim." We didn't care because that meant snack time. Snickers and Mr. Pibb were my snacks of choice back then.
There were also early morning swim lessons. I still shiver at the thought of the chilly air. The water often felt warmer…until it was time to get out. Our city pool also had two diving boards. One was low and extremely bouncy. The other was a high dive. I’m not sure which part scared me more: the climb up the stairs, that first gut-wrenching walk out to the end of the board, or the free fall into the water below. Eventually, I came to love those diving boards, but not until after I pushed through my initial fear.
My memories morph again as I enter my teenage years. Summer days transitioned into a combination of time in the sun and time spent at what would be my introduction to the working world. By the way, this reminds me of something else. Everyone should wait tables at some point in their lives. Until you do, you can’t truly appreciate how challenging it can be. I’m a generous tipper today because of my experiences at sixteen!
When I wasn’t working, I was often back out at the very same lake from my younger years. The public beach, south of where we used to camp, was a favorite hangout. Instead of hanging out with my parents and brothers, my memories include great friends, bikinis, music, and suntans. There were cute boys and boat rides, water skiing and inner tubes. Ah, those were the days!
Well…except maybe for our tanning techniques. I need only look at the many sunspots now marring the skin on my arms and legs to concede the baby oil we doused ourselves in probably wasn’t the best idea.
As happens to so many of us, time spent at work grew from part-time hours to full-time careers. Cute boys were replaced with a cute husband and little ones of our own. We knew we wanted our kids to have their own childhood memories of time at the lake. We just needed to figure out how to make it happen.
We started with week-long vacations, taken with extended family, at various resorts around Minnesota. Certain things stand out when I think back to the different places we rented. One place had two functioning cabins, which served our needs well, but there were also three or four older cabins, ringing an old fire pit, that had fallen into disrepair. The new owners hadn't yet had time to rejuvenate the quaint little structures, but if you've read my novel "Whispering Pines," those small units were the inspiration behind the cabins ringing the fire pit in my story.
When one week at a resort was no longer enough for us, and with baby number three not more than a month old, we took the plunge and bought a camper of our own. We enjoyed ten, fun-filled summers in that camper, parked in a campground an hour and a half from our home and not far from our hometown. I’ll always be thankful our kids had the opportunity to develop precious memories of their own from those times with friends and wonderful 4th of July celebrations.
Our family outgrew the camper and we took the next big step. We bought a cabin of our own. It was essential for us to have a place at the lake. Our cabin, which is situated on the very same reservoir where I spent so many of my childhood summers, is now our favorite gathering place. Our hope is it’ll draw our kids back, with their own families, for years to come.
Wow...I need to pause for a moment. Thank you for allowing me to bring you along on that trip down memory lane. Honestly, before sitting down to write this piece, I hadn’t really thought about the many different ways I’ve spent my life, or at least the summers of my life, around water. It’s a bit surprising, living my whole life in landlocked North Dakota!
I also never would have guessed those memories would eventually become such an integral part of the novels I write. Heck, up until the last five or six years, I’d never even considered writing books. One of my favorite things to do at the lake has always been to sit in the sunshine, or swing in a hammock, with a good book in my hands. Now, instead of only reading them, I’m writing them too.
I love the fact I’ve been able to take something I enjoy and use it to feed my creativity. I incorporate so much of myself and my memories into my books. I sincerely hope I’ve been able to capture some of the magic of time spent at the lake in my stories.
This can serve as a wonderful reminder of how our life experiences, both good and bad, can someday serve us in surprising ways. It also brings me back to my original questions. What are some of your favorite childhood memories that never fail to warm your heart when you allow yourself some quiet time to think back to when you were a kid? Or do memories pop into your brain when you least expect them? When that happens, pause for a minute. Dust off those old memories and give yourself time to experience them again, even if it’s only in your mind.
I’d love for you to share some of those things that make you smile in the comments below.
I've had so much fun incorporating my love of lake-time into my writing over the past couple of years. I thought I'd drop a link in here for you, just in case you haven't yet read my free novella "First Summers at Whispering Pines 1980". I invite you to take a little mini-vacation with me back to a simpler time to enjoy some summertime fun.
There’s more than one way to beat the winter blues! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!