I have this new summer routine where I go to Master’s swim practice Friday morning, then get coffee and go to Columbia Beach in Bay Village. Afterwards, I like to drive down Lake Road with all of the windows down so I can smell the lake breeze and peak at the water between the houses. Today was a little different, though. As I got closer to Avon Belden, my turn to head home, I decided in a split second to make a right onto Beachdale, the little side street where my Grandpa and Grandma Britton used to live.
My grandparents, who are now both gone, rented a small house about 200 yards away from the lake. All of the grandkids loved that house. I can still remember the dark wood paneling on the living room and dining room walls. The screened-in porch had huge windows where we would take turns looking through my grandfathers heavy binoculars at the sailboats far out on the water. This room also housed the stuffed and mounted fish that scared the living daylights out of my sister. I remember standing on a step stool when no one was looking, and running my fingers over the smooth, shiny surface of the preserved skin.
I still have dreams about that house. I can smell the coffee burning in the percolator in the kitchen. I can taste the gooey coconut frosting of my grandma’s German chocolate cake. I can smell the sweetness of my grandpa’s pipe tobacco, and the lingering lightness of my grandmother’s perfume, White Shoulders.
Another great part of that house, perhaps the best part, was the short walk to the lake. There was, and still is, a narrow metal set of stairs that leads down to a short pier. We would play in the shallows of the water, dog paddling but believing we were really swimming. My sister and I would try to skip rocks like the bigger kids, but we were never really good at it. Plop. They just sank, and we would tell our older cousins that we meant to just throw them in. Plop. My grandma would tell us to quit throwing rocks into the water. “If everyone in the world picked up a rock and threw it into the water, we wouldn’t have any water left,” she would always say, and though I always had to be reminded of that, I always believed her.
I’m glad I stopped today. It’s been years since I walked down those stairs and out onto the pier. I was happy to see that nothing had really changed, save for some missing concrete where the water had eroded the pier a little bit. It felt good and it felt right. I kicked off my flip-flops, hopped down to the tiny patch of sandy beach, picked up a flat smooth rock, and threw it into the water. Plop. There was no one else in the world but me.