Chubby toddler hands clasped in my own, I strolled the rocky beaches of Lake Champlain looking for “green glass” in the morning dawn. As our toddlers became taller, the morning ritual of treasure hunting continued; the glass and rocks still collected to be admired for old and new inspirations. The rhythm of stooping and selecting, the sharing of finds, the careful steps chosen, had been a part of mine and my children’s lives for the past 20 years.
The Whites have been coming together on Lake Champlain going back to my kid’s great, great grandfather, T.A. Unsworth. His daughter, Jim’s gramma Arlene, then bought her “little” place down the shore from T.A. when it became available from the late Tiffany family. Arlene was a modern-gal, the first woman underwriter for New York Life Insurance, divorced and raised her 3 kids on her own, passed out subscriptions to “Ms.” magazine when she met her future grandaughters-in-law, and constructed an updated home in the place of the Tiffany’s three-story Victorian.
Since we started bringing our own babes and now grown kids to the lake, we arrived with our vehicles chock-full of bicycles, boats, sewing machines, dogs, cats, the bunny, and yes, even our ducks came one year. For the past couple of years we’ve been able to borrow space at a kind neighbor’s barn so that we could also bring our horses with us. Family reunions, weddings, funerals, birthday parties and holidays have been shared for as long as my husband can remember. Cousins, uncles and aunts have come together for support to scatter parents’ and grandparents’ ashes from the boat.
We have to sell the place. We can’t afford the taxes, even though we split the property three ways with Jim’s brothers. It is one of those classic “the locals can’t afford to live here anymore” situations.
Our neighbors, deeper pockets to our left and right, have bought us out. They want this property which has possibly the best natural shoreline on Lake Champlain. They are going to level our house at the end of this month and divvy amongst themselves.
Here’s where you get my “anger” stage of grief: The new owners will probably throw a nice party to celebrate the White Trash that is leaving the neighborhood(that is the running family joke.) Then they’ll commence to build multimillion dollar stone retaining walls, manicured pathways with trendy lighting and employ the best landscape architects that money can buy so that they can recreate Shangrila. Then, for a finishing touch, they’ll install some tasteful fencing.
It’s too sad when you have to sell out. No matter what. I initially wanted to be the pillar and declared “There’s no crying in second homes.”
But I sat on the shores this morning, and well, I cried.
So, sad as it is, I recognize that lessons develop character. You swallow hard and stay positive. March on and figure out how you can give to someone in more need. Gain perspective.
After all, our lives are embedded and blessed with those soul-soothing walks from seasons past. The physical world can change all it wants; we’ve got our memories, we’ve got our faith.