I ran across this picture today and felt my heart swell a little. It was taken at the beach in Ludington, MI, and Epworth Heights, a Methodist community of cottages. Even though we were Catholic and didn’t own a cottage, every summer we stayed at Happy Harbor, a cottage next to the lagoon and off the beach with a bay window that featured a large model sailboat. To this day, the smells of wet sand, sisal rugs, and dune buggies take me back to some of the best memories of my childhood: running down the dunes with our towels tied at our necks, pretending to be super heros (actually, super cats…but that’s a whole ‘nother story); walking through the tiered sidewalks that ran in front of the cottages at different levels, thick with flowers and ferns; stopping by the hotel for comic books and candy; strolling down the long boardwalk to the lighthouse that greeted ships on Lake Michigan.
On the Fourth of July, the town launched fireworks off a barge in the lake and we dug foxholes in the beach sand. As the fireworks exploded, we dove into our foxholes and pretended to be at war. It was the 1960’s and Vietnam was on the news every night.
I remember a man who stayed farther north on the beach, in a cottage called the Sandpiper, I think. I can’t remember his name but he was confined to a wheelchair, his chest strapped into the chair, and he took deep breathes and gulped before every three words. He was always very sweet to us and my dad adored him.
There were five of us kids then. I was the youngest. In this picture, I am with my oldest brother, who is developmentally disabled. We were always off in different directions — my sister playing softball, my brothers sailing, me picking up rocks and shells or running with one of my brothers up the catwalks to the hotel. We sang “Downtown” with Lulu on the radio. We bought Batman ice cream, bright blue and tasting like licorice, at the ice cream parlor in town.
I remember walking with my dad along the beach one night. (I have probably written about this before, somewhere else on this blog, but it was one of those moments upon which my memory glints.) He picked up a perfectly round stone. He said, “This is like your little face. Perfectly symmetrical.” He had to explain what “symmetrical” meant. That stone sat on his dresser for years afterward.
Um. The coincidences here are just too baffling to not mention. I meet my college friends and their families for a week every year at a resort in Ludington in between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan. We’ll be there in a few weeks. I am not staying in the cabin named The Sandpiper this year, but I did the last two years. All the cabins in the resort are named after birds. Also, I was just writing my gargleblaster about it when you posted this.
Your post is chock full of lovely memories, and pretty much expresses how I feel when I’m up there. The happiness I feel knowing that all of my friends’ children will have fond memories of summers to remember like you do.
No way! Is that north of Epworth? I will now have to Google. I seem to recall that this guy’s cottage was way up the beach where only a couple of cottages were. What a small world. I haven’t been to Ludington since the early ’90s when I dragged a friend up there. We couldn’t stay at Epworth–not having three letters of recommendation or whatever it is that’s required.
I’m so envious of you! Is the hotel still standing? Yes, your friends’ kids will have those memories forever. A little piece of magic, that.
OK. Another freaky thing. I found out the guy’s name: Tom Rodgers. I do remember that he was from Illinois. How I remembered the name of that cottage is beyond me! He seemed kinda old to have parents with him but my dad seemed old too and he wasn’t yet 40. http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/1570379
Lovely story. So nice to have these memories. Your description creates a really clear picture in my mind.
Thank you, Emma. I’m so grateful to remember this place and the people in it. It was always an adventure.