By: Leah Prescott
A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to a place that held some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Decades ago, my grandfather built a house on Lake Marion as a respite from his work as an ENT specialist and surgeon. He chose a simple layout with practicality in mind and my grandma decorated it in a casual, welcoming style. It was a weekend getaway and a summer oasis. At this house, my mother spent her teen years water-skiing, fishing, running barefoot, and swimming. My parents even started their life together there as honeymooners.
I have visited this spot hundreds of times over the years and always felt it held some kinds of particular magic. Maybe because my grandfather refused to ever install a telephone and all the TV could ever conjure up were grainy golf tournaments or Lawrence Welk re-runs. Or maybe it was because my grandfather was the most patient, kind, and peaceful person I ever knew and his character was woven into the very house itself. Somehow nothing bad could ever happen there. My worst memories are of my brother running through leftover ashes of a bonfire and burning his feet. I also had a terrible case of chicken pox when I was twelve. And once I got a fishhook caught in my hand. But Granddaddy was a doctor, so no need to worry.
We fished and ate fried fish, rocked in a hammock for hours with my grandfather, and spent lazy afternoons paddling around old stumps that we pretended were alligators. We picked blueberries and put together jigsaw puzzles and made huge pitchers of Sun Tea with mint. When my siblings and I were older, it was a place to re-connect away from the distractions and friends from home. Even as a teen obsessed with a social life and music, I could always slow down to watch a magnificent lightning storm through the huge wall of windows, catch lightning bugs with my little sister, or use binoculars to sight a crane.
This was a place for birthday celebrations, sleepovers, and reunions with cousins. My mother, brothers, sister and I even lived there for months on end as we were re-locating for my dad’s job. When I first arrived, I always ran next door to play with my dear friend Bevin. We made playhouses in the lush, lake watered trees, ate scuppernongs right off the vine and picked figs from the biggest fig tree I have ever seen. We rode old Schwinn cruisers down the gravel paths to the graveyard, learned to water ski and watched fireworks from a pontoon on the Fourth of July. It’s a place I learned to swim, discovered how much I loved to write, and, on the dock in front of brilliant sunsets, I spoke aloud to God about all my fears. In the sweetest sense of the word, I grew up on Lake Marion.
Since my grandfather died, and my grandmother’s mental health has declined, the lake house has been neglected. The upkeep was overwhelming to my parents and Aunt and Uncle, and the property taxes were eating away at its worth. This summer, the house was sold. We visited one last time and took hundreds of pictures. To say our time was bittersweet doesn’t quite seem to cover it. It’s by far the place that is most full of happy memories of my life. As my brother Kyle described, walking through the doors always felt like coming home.
Over the years, I’ve dreamed of this peaceful spot dozens of times. Even though I tend towards nightmares that distort even friendly faces, I never had a bad dream about the lake. Instead, my dreams were much like reality there: slow, lazy and overwhelmingly peaceful. That’s one of the reasons I remember distinctly as a child picturing heaven as the quiet shores of Lake Marion. But this morning I woke up from a dream with tears in my eyes. I dreamed that I was searching for my childhood on the lake, but I knew I could never return. One day, I’ll be reunited with my grandfather in heaven and see if it really looks like Lake Marion at sunrise. Until then, I’m happy that new owners will be living there and fervently hope that they can find as much joy and serenity there as my family always did.