Our cousins always knew the best places. An essentially flat lake with a light sandy bottom and only curious minnows to nibble at and swim between our toes, Lake Otsego was the perfect playground for seven cousins under 12 years old. The water was so perfectly crystalline that I loved to watch as I dug my toes into the sand to churn it up into mini under-water storms. Even the minnows didn’t mind this slight disturbance from the feet of a 10-year-old child. Instead, they quickly swam just out of arm’s reach beyond the swirling pellets of sand, and then slowly made their way back when the white grains slowly fell back to the bottom. Peace was once more restored to the calm surface of the lake.
Having grown up playing in the almost ocean-like enormity of Lake Michigan, I was used to water which was at times rough, and which always quickly rose over my head. Lake Otsego, though, was no more than 3 feet deep as far out from the shore as our mothers would allow us to bravely venture. Though northern summers were short, the flat pancake of lake warmed quickly, and as I sat in the water and felt the gentle lapping of the waves wash over me, I was soon lulled into a state of relaxation almost unheard-of for a spontaneous, rambunctious 10-year-old child.
Once our fingers became pruny and we tired of minnows slipping through our fingers as we tried to grasp one after another to take home with us, our mothers would wave us into shore with the promise of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Ritz crackers, and soft, warm towels. Most of the glorious white sand was in the lake and the beach was but a brief thread, so pine needles and dry grass stuck to our feet and clung to the insides of our toes as we ran ashore. We would later spend hours trying to pick these needles out from between our toes. For the moment though, the immediacy of the warmth of our mothers’ arms as they wrapped us in great cotton towels that smelled of the outdoors was enough to sustain us until we were rested enough to make another venture into the clear, spring-like waters of Lake Otsego.
~ Laura Fox, IUSB
~ Laura Fox, IUSB