(From June 6, 2012 LEO Weekly)
by Sara Havens
I spent most of my childhood summers constructing castles of sand on the beaches of Lake Erie, which my mom explained was an ocean without sharks. I didn’t always believe her as I ventured far into the waters … past the point where her scolds were audible. I was off to find a dolphin or a mermaid to be my friend. I paddled as fast as one could with floatation devices strapped around her upper arms. As soon as I thought I had reached freedom, I felt a hard slap on the head and a shove under water. My older brother had squelched my dreams yet again.
My uncle owned a boat and a trailer home on the lake, which is where we would converge for a week or two without plans, deadlines or curfews. It’s where I learned how to fish. How to toast a s’more just right. How to puff a cigarette (of the candy variety) and look cool. I got acquainted with the term seasick while trying to nap on a moving boat. I discovered my disdain for seafood and Circus Peanuts. I understood the importance of having an extended family and knew someday my brothers and I would be the age of our parents and would have similar vacations — even though I never thought I’d be as old as my mom.
Summers on Lake Erie were perfect. Perfect for a kid who had yet to taste anxiety and self-doubt. Perfect as a stroll down the street to the candy store with 75 cents in your pocket. Perfect as an ocean without sharks.