October is here, but it sure has felt like the fiery depths of summer lately. So, before we start feeling those cool crisp mornings and bust out the scarves and boots, I wanted to reflect back on those four glorious days this summer that we spent on Kentucky Lake. It was planned during a week where we had nothing on the calendar. Zero. Until, all of a sudden, the Little League Championship game, due to a series of events, was moved to that week. Brady’s team was in it. In a summer dominated by baseball, we had to decide if we were gonna miss out on the one little vacation we had time to take, or if we were gonna stay home for Brady to play in the championship game. We went.
Maybe it’s because I moved four hours away from most of my family and friends when I was eight years old. That was 1988. No social media. No FaceTime. No texting. Long distance calls cost money. We might as well have moved to Australia. I remember thinking that. As a little girl, who missed my best friends. My grandparents. Maybe that is why I have always, always longed for my roots. Those places that generations of my family lived. Worked. Made supper and raised their babies. Those people who are connected to my past. Who know the stories of my family. Who want to pass them on.
My mom’s best friend from her childhood lives on Lake Barkely. That lake and Kentucky Lake sit across from each other with the Land Between the Lakes nestled in between them. When I told her we were coming down, she told us we were staying with her. I love that she didn’t give us a choice. I especially love that every night we were there, she and I sat out on her front patio, as the fans blew around that hot air, and we could see the lights of the barges on the lake, she and I talked and talked. About my mom. About my childhood. About hers. We talked about losing our husbands. About letting go. Moving forward. I am grateful for that time with her. I KNOW my mom was looking down just grinning ear to ear as we reminisced. There is something so special about getting to spend time with my mom’s people, now that she’s gone. It is a way for me to honor her. Keep her spirit alive. Plus, she chose some of the very best people, so hanging with them is a privilege. Penny is no exception.
My dad has a sailboat on Kentucky Lake. He was a pilot for nearly 40 years. After watching him be the captain of his sailboat, I could 100% understand why a man who sat at the helm of a Boeing 777 would want to sail a boat in his retirement. I never got to fly with him, but, I. Got. To. Sail. The “What About Bob” references were just a rollin’ that week. I have never sailed before, but I have spent plenty of time on the water in my life. This was different. So vastly different. It’s almost like living in a northern state and heading to the islands. Life is slower. People move at their own pace. It’s not a race. It took me a minute to get use to it and then I closed my eyes and basked in the goodness of it. Favorite spot on any boat, front row. I love the wind on my face and nothing but water in front of me. And, I loved the time we got to spend with my dad.
My mom’s dad was born and raised just miles from Kentucky Lake. Mom spent her summers with her dad’s family. She adored them. They were wise. Funny. Witty. So chock full of grit. They were loud. Quirky. Beautiful people inside and out. Faith and spirit filled. My grandad and his siblings have all passed on, but my mom’s cousins still live around there. We spent our last evening at her cousin Teresa’s home. Growing up, I never got to know that side of the family very well. Have so few memories with them and those I do have are blurry. Once we moved, that place became even farther away and so we always stopped at the little town mom was raised in, but didn’t go any further south. After spending an evening with Teresa, I realized, I missed out.
She looks a lot like my mom, but with auburn hair. She wrapped me up in big ole hug and then introduced all of my people to her people. I am a sappy Sally and sentimental to a fault. So, when I walked into her house and it was full of heirloom pieces, I about did the ugly cry right then and there. She has my great-grandma’s old ironing board out on display. Her space heater that looks older than the hills. Old wooden windows from her house, hang on her walls. And, she has my grandad’s old bed frame from when he was a little boy. My grandad hung the moon. I have missed him every day since he passed eight years ago. I had no idea anyone owned his old bed frame. I walked up the stairs of the loft to look at it. I touched it and imagined him as a little boy, growing up on a farm, climbing in and diving under the covers every night. As I stood there, she told me to turn around and look at the rocking chair. That was his dad’s rocking chair. My great-grandpa. It didn’t have any arms on it. My great-grandma sawed them off after getting her apron caught on it one too many times.
We ate peach cobbler. Great-grandma’s recipe. I have made it myself a few times since. So much butter. So much goodness. Before we left, Teresa’s husband told her to get her guitar and sing us a song. I grew up with every side of my family playing music. But, I had no idea, THAT side of the family had musicians. Teresa sang “Never Leave Harlan Alive” by Patty Loveless while she strummed along on the guitar, and I just sat there in awe. It was like a piece of the puzzle was found. Right there in the place it’s been all along.
Four days. Four days of cherished memories. New experiences. Time with precious people. Four days of saying no to everything else and yes to our family. God’s country. That’s what my mom always called Kentucky. I can’t argue with that. We will go back. We will sit on the patio and reminisce again. We will sail. We will eat more peach cobbler. We will say yes to ALL the goodness THAT place holds, even if it means missing a baseball game or two. Until next time.
As always, thanks for reading!