clintonnc.com

The children of summer

Micki Cottle Guest columnist

August 23, 2013

Looking back to the fifties, White Lake wasn’t considered much of a resort, resort; really it was simply a family gathering place. But, during those teenage years, my friends and I got down right poetic about it.


One friend poured her soul out in a poem she dreamily called “Growing up at White Lake” then she reluctantly pasted it in a carefully stashed diary, that even her mama never found.


Back then it was a sanctuary though. Nothing fancy mind you. But, to many generations of summer babies, it was where the only time was a good time, and 9 to 5 history just rolled somewhere else.


Trouble had eased its ugly head throughout the world…but when you were spending golden summer hours at the Lake, you were too selfish to bother much about wars and politics. And maybe that was good, that respite.


Years later we still liked to pull out those photographs of life, when our own parents looked more like kids than parents; younger than we do today. Turn a few pages, click! There we were, babies squinting at the same bright, white beaches and the clear waters of White Lake.


Flip another page in time, and “Taddaah!” There we were world, oh my; so grown up, so cool! Dressed to kill in halters and shorts, Tangee lipstick, and baby-oil tans, smiling toothy, bright grins for anybody’s camera. Ready for the pages of Vogue. Not the least bit surprised we were so valuable to history. Blissfully ignorant; eager for life, and ridiculously young.


When we were even much younger, my cousins and I would lie in our makeshift beds in the dark of the sleeping porches, cradled in musty mildew and listen to the ‘grownups talk.’ This, now, was heavy life stuff; and we strained our ears, hoping to hear something we didn’t know (Which was quite a lot, come to think of it.)


We could see the orange flicker of their cigarettes lighting the other end of the porch as they rocked and talked through the night. There would be occasional bursts of laughter, and crusty whispers; but by then we knew most of their stories by heart.


Sooner or later, one of us would call out: “Tell us about uncle so-and- so, who disappeared on that Fla. Train.” And they would say: “You hush up, go to sleep now.” But we knew sooner or later one of them would pick up the hint and repeat the old family gossip; and if we stayed awake long enough we would hear the Florida story once more, until finally the cabin would be ghostly quite and we were left alone, supine in the warmth; until only the sounds of the wind and water were there; until the hot, sticky night slipped us gently to our dreams.


As we grew older and bolder, we discovered the “Hay Loft.” ( Nothing fancy here either). Juke box music bounced off the walls and puppy love encounters left us breathless, and brought us scurrying back every chance we got.


We tried to dance the days and nights away, lost in the sweet summer madness. We carved our names on the old wooden support posts and thought, in our ignorance that they, like our youth, would last forever.


The Loft was the center of our adolescent Mecca. It was “the Hideout,” Our Place; and we would have lived there if we could.


We would look so wistfully at the tanned boys and older girls as they whipped out smartly on the dance floor in a slow two-step, or an early shag. They were cool, sophisticated, kings and queens of the summer balls.


Of course they pretended not to know us, even though we were related to most of them. We accepted this tradition, and knew in our hearts we would do the same when our time came.


Always we were in such a hurry. We wanted to leap past this adolescence, knobby- kneed embarrassment, and get on with it. We wanted to throw our shoulders back and pick up our pace.


We watched closely through this window to adulthood, imitating every move. We pursed our lips, shook our hips, rolled our eyes and giggled at our own daring. We tried, my how we tried to enter this dance of summer.


Eventually of course, we too had our turn on the sand-swept dance floor. And by then it seemed all the boys were really handsome and all the girls had tiny waists and slender ankles. Even now in my memory, everything has a pleasantly elusive look, like a painting frozen forever; and the dizzying feelings of yesterday are there within our touch.


So, for a time, in those far summers of life, in that land of summer, the Hay-Loft was our personal “Shangri-La.” And for a time, we were transformed from gangling adolescents to beautiful, graceful dancers. And for a time we owned summer.


And for a time, we danced….