Her jeans were so tight she had trouble getting the money out.
— Larry Brown, “Wild Thing”
Mother: You look skinny.
Me (in shock): I’m not really — just poor.
Mother: Well, poverty becomes you.
Me: Is that kind of like “heroin chic” or “National Geographic thin?”
Mother: No, it’s more like America before everyone had a car and drive-thrus.
Me: Well, I’m certainly none of those but I did squeak into your cutoffs from the ’70s that are still down at the lake.
Mother: Those were hot.
Me: They were on fire.
Mother: No, I mean the denim was so thick they were too hot to wear.
Me: Ha. I’ll save them for the fire pit in fall.
Mother: When did you put in a fire pit?! Please be careful with that wooden house and all of those natural woods.
Me: It’s okay. It was installed by the Viking.
Mother: Viking makes a fire pit?
Me: No! I said by “the” Viking, not Viking.
Mother: Either way, I feel better.
Me: You and me both, sister.
Memorial Day Weekend is in full throttle and the Viking arrives at the Stabbin’ Cabin with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of lake toolery. He’s got a stainless pump for the ce-ment pond, a backpack blower that will send anyone under a buck twenty-five airborne and a chainsaw so gnarly trees fall over when they see it coming. The house is coming along in its spring progress and with the addition of the Viking and his cache of equipment it’s Velocity Made Good.
Me: Did you stop at the Minnow Farm?
Viking: No, I barreled on through.
Me: I was there this morning and a woman with one front tooth fluttering like an American flag asked me if I liked to party.
Me: Ha. There was also a group of Rastafarians. Very strange morning indeed for our little corner of the woods.
Viking: They probably thought you were the strange one. What are you wearing anyway?
Me: It’s a punk-rock tube top. You know how I like to recycle clothing.
Viking: That I do know.
It’s beer-thirty and we’ve got the Frogmore Stew at a dull roar. It’s a small gathering of Charlotte friends and kids and a coterie of pups in full pursuit of teens on a go-cart. The lake is shimmering with the napping sun and stripper glitter of metal-flake bass boats. Pontoons putter along and a few nascent sailors are staking out the winds in the fetch. The stretch of grass that cuts a swath to the water from the cedar-shake house is the color of a Coke bottle in the dying light.
Me: Man I feel lucky.
Viking: I feel thirsty.
Me: Sometimes the two are inexplicably intertwined.
This place where I grew up in that summertime way is where I’m still growing. It’s the gravel road where I propped up on phone books and learned how to drive the old Country Squire wagon. It’s where I learned to rig a sailboat and tack across the lake on not-so-blustery days. It’s where I ruined my first white bikini in its red mud murky waters. It’s where I stole my first beer.
Mother: I’m so glad we were able to give you the lake and all of the memories and that you are still making new ones.
Me: It’s funny but this place relaxes me more than any other place.
Mother: It had the same effect on me. You know I bought that property when I was pregnant with you. I walked that lot with my belly out to here and saw that view and knew I was going to buy it.
Me: So it’s kind of like I went from in utero directly into the lake?
Mother: I’m not sure if you ever left in utero.
Me: I think you might be right.
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