I always say my heart and soul lie in Vermont, in the memories with friends and family. My grandparents built a house right on Lake Champlain. It is not a typical house tucked in the woods of rural Vermont. It is a rich, dark brown-paneled structure with unexpected angles protruding here and there. But my grandma has never been one for the ordinary. She liked to make a statement—even if it was subtly added to shoreline of lake houses. Grandma Jean would not come up with us every visit. We would often just stop at her home in New York for lunch on our way up to the destination—the house fondly referred to as “camp.” The memory of eating toasted ham sandwiches at Grandma’s carries the weight of her recent bittersweet passing.
After eight hours of driving, my sister Debbie and I could practically taste our arrival as we drove over Lake Champlain Bridge connecting Crown Point, New York to Addison, Vermont. We would attempt to hold our breath across the seemingly ever-growing bridge. Driving through West Addison, we begged our parents to stop at WAGS—West Addison General Store. The floorboards would creak as we walked around the small candy kiosk deciding how we would spend our dimes. Dad would get a fishing license in anticipation for the many boating adventures we planned to have. While we loved WAGS, it was only the appetizer for a much more satisfying meal.
As the tires were suddenly rolling slowly over gravel as well as increasingly large potholes, my sister and I would know we had finally arrived. We were home. The car turned along the twisting road, weaving in and out of trees. Just around the corner was camp. We would run to get all of the luggage in the house so we could go swimming or start a campfire down on the shale-filled beach. Debbie and I lugged our suitcases and pillows up the slippery spiral staircase, fought over the twin beds, which held two beds often covered with the same navy, red, and ivory striped comforters. Debbie and I usually ended up sleeping together in the full sized bed in the only bedroom with a door upstairs. After we were all unpacked, we would plan adventures for the week—weather permitting.
On sunny days my dad and I would put the boat in the lake. We would drive the 1959 boat at a speeding twenty-five miles per hour back to the house to pick up Debbie and Mom. The wooden motorboat, painted yellow, blue, and fuchsia, was always slower than other boats on the lake, but I felt like a speed demon whenever I sat behind the wheel. My favorite part was jumping out and swimming back to shore, hoping to avoid the lake weed at all costs. The monstrous tentacles were not to be toyed with, for they would pull you down to the depths where Champ lived! This creature is lurks along the bottom of Lake Champlain and periodically surfaces for a quick meal and snapshot by tourists and locals alike. I personally think Champ and Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) would be friends. They don’t like attention, but all the locals know they’re there. My sister and I would swim as fast as we could out of Champ’s domain to the much kinder shore.
Debbie and I would grab our towels off the rocky beach, run up the rickety stairs that went up the bank, and race to get inside. Mom and Dad would yell at us if we got any part of the house wet, so we would quickly strip off our beach shoes, give ourselves a quick rub down, and run inside and up the stairs to warm, dry clothes waiting patiently all crinkled up in our suitcases, all the while leaving little puddles referencing our adventure on the deck and on every stair, documenting each footstep. The family would often convene in the kitchen to prepare for an always-delicious dinner. No footsteps could be heard on the carpeted floor; the only sounds were chopping knives, sizzling pans, and jubilant conversation. The food was piled onto the dinner table with the classic blue and white gingham tablecloth with hearts on it. We squished together, trying to yell across the table with our mouths stuffed with food. We occasionally got a coherent phrase out, but the most identifiable sound would be laughter.
This table was prime real estate for a good laugh. It’s where I coined Aunt Susie, “Aunt Dudette,” and Grandma Jean tried to show she could levitate a spoon on her nose (with her hand holding the spoon in place from under her shirt.) The best part of the house was there were barely any walls. It was so open that it could only feel inviting. The dining room led right into the living room, which had the best view. Inside you can see up into the loft, all the handmade quilts from my grandma, the kitchen, the living room, and the wood stove. Wherever there wasn’t a homemade craft of some sort on the walls were sliding glass doors and windows. It felt like I was outside without actually being exposed to the elements. My favorite place to sit was Grandpa’s orange chair at the base of the spiral staircase. It was right in the center of the house, and you could be a part of everything going on. The whole family’s conversations were easily accessible, yet I could always find peace and tranquility looking out the back door, which directly faces the lake, across which are the hazy mountains of New York.
What makes a house a home? Family. Adventures. Laughter. Risks. Love. This home personified beauty in all its forms. Its architecture and furnishings showed the product of man’s creativity. Its backdrop showed the everlasting magnificence of God’s creation. Its inhabitants showed the innocence of depth of love between family members. Since the passing of my grandmother, this house seems like a cage for painful memories; however, this home is case of moments that I never want to forget.