By Amanda Dedic
Laingsburg High School
As I sit in the Ford Expedition, my bottom already sore from the two-hour car ride, I look over at my twin sister, Aimee, and my good friend, Elle. They are both eagerly peeking out the window as we drive up to our final destination, the same place we go every year for the Fourth of July.
My grandparents have owned this cabin on Chippewa Lake since my own father, now 43-years-old, was a boy. My dad, along with his brother and sister, now bring their families and friends up to this cabin, and has been doing so for 40 years.
Other cars pull up beside ours, everyone piling out excitedly, anxiously anticipating the coming week.
Now, if a person were to walk by, someone who had no idea who we were, they would probably not understand the excitement we were all feeling. All they would see is a very small cabin that appears to be as old as its owners. They would see no running water with the exception of a small pump outside and a television that has no cable. They’d see a speed boat on its way to the morgue, and a bunch of crazy looking people pitching tents on either side of the tiny shack.
A complete stranger would have no idea why such a large group of people were so thrilled about sleeping in tents for an entire week. How were they supposed to watch the newest American Idol on Tuesday night? What about Facebook and Twitter? No one can possibly be happy to spend a week in what looks like nearly absolute isolation.
But in fact, we were.
My family and my friends have become family because of this cabin. Long nights by the fire and outdoors manage to take people away from the computer screens and actually get to know each other. One week, once a year, is spent in the closest thing to paradise. Granted, there’s no cable. That’s why instead of checking out the website for new notifications, we spend the entire day, from morning until evening, out on the lake, burning because someone always forgets the sunscreen.
My cousin Korey drives the speedboat, with two tubes in the back, trying his hardest to knock off whoever’s riding. Elle is the first to jump the tube if he does donuts. And if the boat’s motor suddenly breaks down, and it always does, all of us kids have to sit out on that old boat in the middle of the lake until someone arrives in the pontoon to tow us to shore. Fun, right? Sometimes we end up sitting for hours, staring up at that perfect sky, talking about whatever comes to mind. Or, when the topics run out, we decide who to eat first if we get too hungry.
Once the swimming and tubing from the day wears us all out, its time to head in to Paradise Island, where there are always platefuls of food waiting for us. Everyone agrees that on vacation diets and careful eating are banned. The charred to perfection burgers are too much for anyone to resist and not even Jenny Craig could turn down my Aunt Sue’s homemade macaroni and cheese.
Finally, the sky is covered in darkness, and that’s when dad, the titled pyromaniac, lights the fire. Aunts, Uncles, cousins of all ages, moms, dads, and friends of all sorts gather around, pulling lawn chairs to the fire. Some people are watching the fireworks light up the sky, as others help the youngsters roast marshmallows, demonstrating the perfect method of turning the marshmallow a perfect shade of brown. Or when impatience wins out, how to burn it.
By the end of that first day, everyone has bonded again in a way that only a matter of time in seclusion can produce. There are no distractions at the cabin on the lake. Only plenty of time for lame jokes and stories everyone’s heard a million times but will listen to a million more. It’s enough time to forget all other 51 weeks of the year are spent apart. It’s enough time to remember the superiority of friends and family compared to cable television and Facebook notifications.
Six more days go by, and on the seventh day, all the tents are pulled down and rolled up. The suitcases are zipped and loaded into the trunk. Our flip flops are ruined and our skin browned. The CD road mix is in the disc player, and it’s time to go.
Everyone drives the two hours onward, back to the running water, reality TV, and internet connection. Back to lying out beside a pool, texting constantly. Where the houses have air conditioning and the mattresses are soft and comfortable. However, not even the softest mattress in the world can compare to those seven days up at the lake, or the memories made at that deteriorating cabin.
And as I unpack my suit case, sadly putting my things in their right places, I can’t help but think back on all the happy times, and realize how silly those scientists must be who are trying to find the formula for happiness. As if it can be bottled up and retailed.
If they want the formula, I’ll hand them a wrinkled sheet of paper, with a map detailing the exact directions to a cabin up on Chippewa Lake.