Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jane Eyre returns to Thornfield and finds it *not* a burning wreck

So in the last post I mentioned that I was returning to the place where I once spent "The Summer I Was a Governess." I have *many* stories to tell from that summer -- though my only friend from those days (how sad and melancholy -- *one* friend -- it's true!) thinks I should save them for a Nanny Diaries type novel. Suffice it to say for now that I was tricked into being a much-abused and exploited live-in babysitter, with responsibilities almost every day, all day, for a mere $15 a week, and that many of the other kids didn't seem interested in being friends with "the help." (Except for that one kind soul, who was the reason I returned to the place this week.)

*Anyway*, for the first time in 26 years, I went back to the sight of my indentured servitude, and I have to say that it was *great fun* being there as an adult with no children to look after! First of all, it's a *beautiful* place. It was originally a retreat for a particular denomination of Protestant ministers and their families -- not quite a Chautauqua, but related, I suppose -- founded in 1901. And like many other places inspired by American Romanticism and the urge to get back to nature, it's a bucolic and relaxing place, on a spit of land between one of the Great Lakes and a very large interior lake with the most crystalline water you've ever seen. Look! --

That water is up to the hem on my shorts (which are fairly short shorts), and I have long legs. And as you can see, it's a sand-bottom lake, too, so there's an actual sandy beach to lie on when you're not in the water. Here's a picture of part of the sandy beach with everyone's beach chairs and water toys just sitting around waiting for them to come back for them (because you can do that there and your stuff will actually be there waiting for you!):

People who live at this summer resort live in "cottages" of various styles. Some are very traditional, like this one --

-- and some are traditional ones expanded upon and made more awesome, like this one (*love* the tree through the roof line of the porch!):

And then there's the fancy excess-of-the-80s might-as-well-be-a-full-time-house I lived in with the family I worked for:

Yeah, I know, poor me. But I'm telling you, I really did get a raw deal. (Though I did like "laying out" -- as we used to say -- on the deck on the back when I was home alone with the infant.)

By the way, I wouldn't have been back at this place again if I weren't still friends with the one kid I really befriended up there 26 years ago. In the intervening years we kept in touch almost entirely by writing -- first hand-written letters, later e-mails, and now Facebook. We didn't see each other again until 2004, here in Rust Belt. And then Bullock and I went to a wedding in my friend's current vicinity and we saw him then. And then I saw him this week. Amazing, isn't it?

Anyway, this time around I made a quick, 24-hour visit (plus the 5 hours of driving on each end) and did some of my favorite things to do in a place like this (short of swimming, since I currently don't own a bathing suit that fits). Here's a quick photo essay of my visit.

I relaxed on the cottage deck with a regional and seasonal beer:

I walked along the shore of the Great Lake with my friend, looking for interesting rocks:

I took pictures of interesting rocks:

I enjoyed the sunset over the Great Lake:

I relaxed in front of a bonfire on the shore of the Great Lake:

And I marveled some more at the clarity and calmness of the non-Great lake:

Oh yeah, and I slept *great* in the quiet and pitch-black dark of the woods.

All it took was 24 hours of awesome laziness to wipe out the summer of '84. I'm now in love with the place and talking to Bullock about renting a place up there for two weeks next summer!

ETA: I should also add that all the people whom I met (or met again) who have been going to this summer spot since 1984 or before were *thrilled* to see me there again, and were warm and welcoming to me as an adult. I'm sure being 15 years old had something to do with my feeling like such an outsider back then.


squadratomagico said...

Looks like a lovely time! And I am impressed by your scarlet pedi shining up through the limpid waters.

Dr. Virago said...

Heh. Yeah, the pedi and the toe ring are two of the signs that I used to live in SoCal. Now I get pedis only in the summer, but back then I used to get them year round. They were my one regular luxury in grad school. And I almost always go for deep, bright colors, usually in shades of red.

undine said...

Nice pictures! I wanted to put my feet in that clear water, too.

Susan said...

Heh. I also did a summer as a governess, and while I ended up feeling exploited, I think I earned (back in the late 60s) $25 a week and got to live on Cape Cod. But it was tiring!

Dr. Virago said...

$25/week in the late 60s is a heckuva lot better than $15/week in 1984! See, the thing is, that $15 was supposed to be for *one night* of babysitting a week, and instead, I had constant duties every freakin' day. I think the Mrs. thought, "Well, that's what the oldest child in a family of five would do without pay." But the thing is, I WASN'T HER CHILD! Man, I should've left a note with a bill for back pay plus interest in their house the other day. The door was wide open, after all (because you can do that up there, too). That would've been hilarious. Why didn't I think of that?