|Photo from Pixabay under Creative Commons License|
Jennifer E. Miller
Riding in the car, I felt the curve in the road before the resort entrance. The car blinker ticked, as the tires crunched over the gravel driveway, leaving behind a wispy cloud of dust. I saw row of small structures almost too small to be called houses. I guess that’s why they were called cabins.
Dad steered the car and parked in front of the main office. All three of us, my sister was the third one, climbed out and filed inside. A friendly woman with long greying hair tied in a ponytail and thick bangs greeted us. She checked something off in her registration book and handed Dad the keys. The keychain was an ugly, orange, plastic diamond that surely fit uncomfortably in his jeans pocket. But I suppose not one tenant misplaced it.
While the woman discussed the rules and things to do, my sister and I became antsy. She noticed and suggested we step out the rear door onto the porch. Skipping our way to the door, our sneakers creaked over the wood floors, worn dry by sand and dampness others had trampled in. The screen door had a rusted spring that complained as we pushed it open and stepped outside.
We stared at the glittering surface of water before us. Like floating diamonds, it shimmered in the fierce midday sun. They bobbed up and down, momentarily disappearing, so as not to melt under the rays.
I wanted to kick off my shoes, push my toes into the sand, placing one foot before the other, faster and faster, and run into the cool deep blue water that stood before me. I wanted the minnows to scatter upon my splash and the seaweed to tickle my ankles. I wanted to step over the sharp rocks, or prance across the dock and try to avoid getting a splinter. I longed to watch the sunset—as much as the surrounding mountains would allowed.
At night, I could don a sweatshirt and head to the fire pit where the hosts allowed guests to toast s’mores. I preferred my s’mores a certain way: without the graham crackers or chocolate. The smoke and heat of the campfire parched my eyes. Like fireworks, the flames crackled and seared, giving way to sparkling embers floating off into the night sky, to chase stars, the ashes clinging to my clothes. In the morning, the smell of fire and roasted marshmallows lingered.
But I was getting ahead of myself. I still stood on the porch soaking up the lake with its noise of summer enthusiasts on paddleboats or cannon balling off the dock. There was the scrape of a rowboat over the sand, safely off the water. Couples strolled along the beach hand-in-hand, sometimes with a leashed dog.
My sister groaned, and said something about the small snack store on the beach a few dozen yards down. They sold candy and ice cream. I think that’s what the resort and the lake was to her: candy and ice cream. If those diamonds glittering upon the water were edible, I’d spend all weekend plucking them off and into my mouth. They’d surely taste like crystalize sugar.
The rusted spring complained again, and Dad stepped through, announcing he was finished checking in. We skipped back through the office waving at the woman, and climbed back into the car. No need for seatbelts since it was a short jaunt to the cabin. Cabin. The word suddenly sparked a realization.
“Which cabin did we get this time?” I asked with excited anticipation.
My sister and I cheered and clapped.
Cabin 3 was extra special. It wasn’t the basic long log type that most were. It was narrow, meaning the rooms were such, too. And that meant two twin sized beds couldn’t fit side by side. Cabin 3 was special because it had bunk beds.
The car rolled toward Cabin 3, and my sister and I bickered over who was to get the top bunk. We were told we’d take turns since we were staying two nights here. Next, we argued over who was sleeping on top first.
The car came to a stop. The gear shifted into park and Dad pulled the keys out of the ignition. The noise of the engine, the radio, and crunching over the gravel ceased and an eerie silence lingered because I noticed Dad was quiet, too. Usually he was cheery and jovial upon arrival, but I quickly brushed aside my concern. I was excited to be here.
We opened the car doors as a dust cloud floated by, disappearing as the particles dispersed. Dad popped the trunk and we grabbed our belongings; we didn’t bring much when this place had nature’s splendor to enjoy. Clutching our bags, we headed toward the entrance.
The cabin’s door paint was peeling and a few cobwebs hung in the corners. It was a regular, welcoming site; I liked how things stayed the same here. Dad dug the key out of his pocket and jiggled the lock.
The door swung open and I got a whiff of must and vintage wood paneling. There was a small kitchen and living room, where a textured plaid couch sat next to an old TV with rabbit ears. Between the two rooms was a dark hallway. I darted down it.
The room on one side had a regular sized bed. Across from it was the second room. Running my hand over the smooth wall, I found the light switch and flipped it up. A single bulb illuminated with a small ting, revealing the bunk beds.
I tossed my backpack on the top bed and scrambled up the ladder to claim my stake, much to my little sister’s dismay. Wanting to be first to sleep on top, she pitched a fit. But I wasn’t backing down. She still occasionally wet the bed; and I wasn’t sleeping in a soiled mattress. She just as easily could soil the bottom bunk, but I was not risking my single night on the top to my sister’s bladder. Her fits became tearful and she hollered at not getting her way.
Ignoring her protests, I sat up top, my head inches from the ceiling. Unzipping my bag, I dug out some photos I’d brought along; photos from previous trips to this resort. There was me with my first rainbow trout, sand castles, and even holding a washed up dead sunfish. A handful more revealed new friends we’d made at the lake, rowing a boat, or burying people underneath the sand with only their heads exposed. Over my sister’s cries, I smiled at each one. Each memory flooding through the gates of time.
After flipping through the stack of photos, I placed them next to my pillow. I noticed my sister was still wailing.
I climbed down from the bunk, faced her, and suggested we go to the beach store for candy or ice cream. She said she wanted both. Of course she did. At least the sobbing subsided for now.
Once more, we walked down the dark hallway into the front area where we found Dad opening cupboard doors, examining what supplies lay inside. He stopped and turned toward us.
“She is ready for candy and ice cream,” I told him.
My comment brought a smile to Dad’s face, but it quickly faded.
“This is the last time we will stay here,” he blurted.
Confused, I asked why.
“The resort is being sold to a developer who will tear down the cabins to build condos.”
“What’s a condo?” I asked.
“It’s a building with many places for people to live in,” Dad answered as he mindlessly turned the sink’s faucet on and off.
“You mean apartments?”
“No. fancier than apartments, but similar I suppose. Think of them like a building with a few houses insides.”
“So we will stay in a condo instead of cabins next time?”
“No. The condos are for wealthy people to buy and live in permanently.”
I didn’t like that answer.
“Well, we can come enjoy the beach,” I stated, matter-of-factly.
Dad looked glum.
“We won’t be able to do that either. It will be private property; that’s means keep out.”
I didn’t like that answer. Families enjoyed this resort throughout the summer—and year probably—why restrict use to those few who can afford condos? It didn’t seem right. The natural splendor should be available for all.
My last stay at the resort would at least be in Cabin 3. Somehow, though, the experience was different. The musty smell seemed expired rather than renewing. The ice cream and candy wasn’t as sweet. The paddleboat pedals felt stiffer, the sand rougher, and the diamonds faded. The roasted marshmallows remained delectable and, strangely, one never again tasted as good as they did from that fire pit.
Sadly, I imagined the gravel driveway paved and blocked with an iron gate. Adorned on it would be a sign that read Private Property Keep Out. I pictured the future row of buildings too large to be cabins. They’d be condos. I wonder who would get Condo 3.
I wrote this memoir of a local resort that did indeed change to condo living. It meant yet another public access to the water was stripped away. This practice is all too common in the region. Public use is brushed aside in favor of money and greed. Nature should be for everyone to enjoy and make memories.