Our mother was quite cheerful as she went about raising her brood, keeping house, and later, a career with Penney’s. A favorite image of mine is seeing her open the dining room windows, 3 in a row, to let the southern breezes in. The way the gauzy curtains ruffled out into the room, reflected Mom’s easy movements throughout the house.
She was a hard worker most days. But once in a while, she’d say ”Today, we’re going bumming.” Then, we’d climb into the blue and white Ford and go some place like her sister Norma’s farmhouse where they could chat and we could play with our cousins. Some days we’d go for a drive around Swan Lake or Lake View to see birds and wildlife.
She did like the lake!
So, every summer of my childhood, we gave her a whole week at Lake Belle Taine, near Park Rapids, MN. Of course, she was not alone on this trip. Dad and all of us kids thought we’d keep her company, just for the fun of it.
It was decided to take her in June. Fishing is best then, and that way we can all wear our favorite winter gear a little longer, in case summer hasn’t quite arrived. She’ll have a great time making sure we have our stocking caps and gloves packed.
We tried to remember her favorite things. We would say something like, ”Oh Mom, you have to pack the dented old cake pan so you can make those fresh brownies you like so well!”
And, ”Oh! You do like to sew, so be sure to stitch up a couple of new shorts outfits for the girls, with that happy, colorful print, or the green striped seersucker you let me choose.”
Once we got there, we treated her to all sorts of adventures.
One time, she heard the heart stopping shriek of ”Tony fell in the lake!”, repeated twice for urgency, just so she wouldn’t miss out. A quick rescue saved the youngest child, and the day.
Another time, on the last day of her vacation, when the car was all packed to go home (sweet home), she heard someone yell, ”Robbie has a hook in his leg!!” Oh how she loved that! She was able to render aid and be a nurse. It just made her feel so good! A quick trip to the hospital for stitches delayed the departure by 2 hours. This made her other sons, Eddie and Marty, happy for 2 more unexpected hours of lake time and glorious fishing!
These vacations for Mom continued into her grandparenthood, when grandchildren in their late teens came along. They would yell new phrases of delight to enliven the party, like Conor screaming “Craig, Craig, where did you go?” at 1AM while the 2 of them were canoing across the bay to the opposite shore. It just about made her heart flip, the actions of this frolicking good time duo. Such high jinks are always remembered and cherished, ha ha.
Sometimes, we would get away from the lake and the fish, and go to Deertown, where she could get up close to the charming animals.
We knew how much she loved the Go-Kart rides in Park Rapids so we took her there often. Then, she’d be so hungry that we had to take her to lunch. Wouldn’t you know it? HER favorite meal (and ours too) was a hamburger, fries, and a malt, at a formica table in a diner.
Oh! What a sweet mom! It was so much fun to treat her!
Next, we said we’d like to take her shopping. There were some nice boutiques and antique stores, but we thought a stop at the toy store would be so much better. It would make her laugh and give her joy. It did! She liked her new beach ball and floating raft very much, and she liked sharing them too, letting us play with them whenever we wanted to.
She did get to the antique store. It was attached to the laundromat, so that gave her a little bit of work to do (the laundry) before the fun (of looking at antiques). It fulfilled her by giving her a chance to live her motto, ”First we work, then we play!”
It was a blast giving her all of that laundry to do because we knew how much she relished it. And, it was a diversion from too much beach sitting (wink wink).
One time we gave her a gift to open. I have to say, this was quite exciting! It was a new fishing lure, the fantastic plow jockey! Her eyes widened with surprise while opening it. She said ”Wow! My very own plow jockey!” She was so gracious, and said that Dad and the boys must be the first ones to try it out. She even wished them luck as they left the cabin to fish (and got out of her hair) for a few hours.
She probably really enjoyed those few hours to herself. But soon, her loneliness would get her to thinking about us, and then she would bake a cake or plan lunch. Breakfast was on our own, and supper was always a fish fry that Dad planned and executed, so she did not have the PLEASURE of making 3 meals a day. Sigh, poor Mom.
By the way, this lure was, and still is, legendary. It was introduced to us by our Uncle Al in Indiana. He was quite hilarious as he taught us how to use it. According to my brother, Ed, this is how the instruction went, while they were fishing in a boat: “Fish ‘em slow”, he said, ”just cast out,” at which point he took a drag from a cigarette. Then, he resumed, ”Lift the rod up, and reel in slow”. At the time, Ed thought, “What? I’m supposed to start smoking to fish these lures?” Ha!
We knew Mom loved this vacation, because she was a little misty eyed as we were leaving and heading back to Iowa. She said it was just the most wonderful trip ever! Then, I’m pretty sure, I heard her say softly, ”Maybe next year we’ll go somewhere that does not involve fishing.”
Enjoy your days and your vacations, wherever they are!
Note: This blog post was inspired by our annual vacations—thank you, Dad and Mom— and a very funny short story, ”How We Kept Mother’s Day” by Stephen Leacock. I read it in a used 1962 copy of 30 STORIES TO REMEMBER, selected by Thomas Costain and John Beercroft, Doubleday & Co., Inc.
A few more random pics from Little John’s Resort on Lake Belle Taine, MN: