My parents have owned their lake house for six years and my immediate family has never spent the night there. Other family members have stayed, used the amenities like a hotel and left without much more than a wave. I have spent many days at the lake house for family celebrations and saturdays doing yard work. I have also spent days cleaning the house after others have stayed. I have helped my Mom scrub the floors, wiped chocolate fingerprints off windows, fixed broken chairs and carted away beer bottles and the remnants of carryout containers after their visits. I have changed the sheets and vacuumed the stairs all while wondering how my parents can be so generous. I go out annually to help get the water toys into the water when it warms up and get them out of the water at the end of the summer. But we have never just spent a night at the house, like a little vacation twenty minutes from home. Last week, we decided it was time to finally take advantage of this beautiful property my parents have been slowly renovating over the last half decade.
We drove out on a Wednesday morning with bathing suits, food, and little more since that was really all we would need for our stay. My husband doesn’t travel anywhere without his own food. He is an amazing cook and we usually prefer to eat his cooking rather than carryout, so we often bring a cooler with breakfast and lunch with us whether we are staying at an upscale Chicago high rise or our favorite time share in Atlantis. We have travel spices, I kid you not. He and my Mom shared cooking duties for this stacation since she also loves to take care of us. And by take care of us I mean fill us to the gills with comfort food, mostly of the extra sweet variety. Walking into the lake house is a bit like walking into a crack house if you are a sugar junkie, and my husband and I are just that.
Upon arrival I grabbed a few miniature candy bars from the bowl on the coffee table before setting my bags down. Passing back through the kitchen to grab my purse I found my husband leaning over the counter. I had literally caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. We hadn’t been in the house for thirty seconds before we both had sticky fingers and crumbs on our lips. This was going to be a beautiful few days full of sweet, sweet sugar. It was also going to be difficult to tell our six year old not to stuff her face full of sweets with chocolate seeping from our own mouths. Parenting can be challenging, especially the parts where being a hypocrite is inconvenient. I am always up for a challenge though. Covert candy consumption was my mission for the next two days.
I carried our bags upstairs to the room we would be occupying that night. Strangely, there were no truffles on our pillows, not even a chocolate mint. As I headed downstairs to lodge my complaint with our hostess, I found her giving my husband the grand tour. This included where all the sweets were stashed. I watched as she opened the freezer drawer to display not only ice cream but frozen cream puffs, mini eclairs and cheesecake. I instantly forgave her for the missing pillow treats as I drooled over creamy frozen goodness. My eyes glazed over as she lifted the lid of the cookie jar revealing not one, but three kinds of cookies. She could have been the evil old woman leading Hansel and Gretel into the oven and we would have gladly followed with eyes wide as saucers gleaming with sticky syrup.
We knew ahead of time that there was work to be done in the water and we were ready to get started. The thing about family is that you want to help when it is needed. So even when your parents are telling you to sit down and relax because you are on vacation, it’s not possible to do because you want to be out there with them getting your hands dirty and your feet wet. So we all got wet and spent the better half of the day sinking my Dad’s boat lift six inches deeper into the ground. There were many short breaks to get different tools and rest after bouts of pushing a pulling. As always, my Dad, husband and I spent a lot of time standing silently staring at the project trying to figure out the best way to get the job done. Since my brain works better when properly nourished, I used these times to run up to the house to stuff my face with small candy bars and bits of cookie. I reminded myself that carbohydrates are good for quick energy so I was providing my body with exactly what it needed for the job at hand. Go me! I was eating my own bullshit right along with every bite of chocolate. After a few hours we had accomplished our goal of sinking the boat lift several inches into the sand. If my family can do something well, it’s sink something. This small move actually made all the difference in my Dad’s ability to pull the boat in and out of it’s parking spot.
After our work was done, we ate the only green thing seen on this little stacation – chicken caesar salad boats prepared by my vegetable-loving husband. I quickly scarfed down the crisp green thing in my hand and chased it with a giant piece of cheesecake. I didn’t even care that it was still frozen, I sharpened my teeth while shoveling in graham cracker crumbs and sticky little cherries. Afterward, I retreated to the hammock to relax for a few minutes. I’m not sure if I dozed off or if I went into a sugar-induced coma, but it felt like I blinked and hours had passed. When I awoke I was informed that we would be playing a game called “What’s in my Mouth?” that evening. This was brought to my attention by my six year old who had been out shopping with the queen of the sugar castle all afternoon. They returned from their shopping trip with several large bags of “supplies” that we were not allowed to see before the big game. I had a feeling this sugar trip was going to turn on me. I prepared for the evening by cleansing my palate with a frozen cream puff.
Dinner was served sometime before the sun went down. I was too sugar-stoned to tell time and I wasn’t all that hungry, but I nibbled at the pasta and bread and anything else colored the pasty shade of starch until dessert was served. Strangely, my appetite returned right around the same time dessert arrived. My plate could have been returned to the cupboard after I was done with it, having licked it clean. There was little time to sit and talk after dinner, like most families would do, we had more sweets to devour in our game.
“What’s In My Mouth” has become very popular on YouTube, so of course my daughter had to jump on the bandwagon. Like the Pie Face game, the real object is to get a comical reaction from the players. It’s hard to get the desired response when all of the challenges included chocolate, caramel or fruit flavors. The Sugar Queen did sneak a pickle into the mix just to remind us that she could still make us squirm. It was, however, a sweet pickle. The game ended and I was declared the victor after successfully recognizing that the gob in my mouth was caramel and not butterscotch like my husband guessed. Wilford Brimley would have been proud.
I drifted off to sleep that night with actual sugarplums dancing in my head. Unfortunately just as my sugar trip had turned on me so did my dream. A vision of my mother as a much more feminine version of Scarface appeared. She was loading up a backpack full of Snickers and pudding cups on my daughter’s back and sending her out to the corner. “Just give them a little taste!” the drug kingpin ordered as she hustled her mule out the door.
I awoke the following morning sweaty. I’m not sure if this was due to the fact that I was sleeping in a small bed with my husband pressed against my back or if I was starting to feel the effects of a serious sugar withdrawal. I headed downstairs to find my mom piling pastries onto a plate for breakfast. I looked at the table piled high with eggs, bacon and toast from homemade bread. A jar of jam stood ready to be spread next to a giant bowl of fruit. My Mom finished placing the last of the doughnuts on a plate already overflowing with baked goodies. “Do you want a little taste?” she asked strolling by.
Our departure from the lake house is still a blur. As we grabbed our things I remember shoving little candy bars in my mouth two at a time. I knew it would have to hold me over until our next visit which was not even scheduled yet. We packed up our clothing and empty cooler, refusing the offer of the remnants of the cheesecake I had manhandled the day prior. “No thanks” we said in unison, refusing to bring our little dirty secret back to the suburbs with us. We both talked about going to the gym on the way home and how we were going to eat salads for dinner all week. There was no mention of the fact that my bathing suit was ready to untie itself from the tension on the strings around my hips or my husband’s hardly disguised car sickness as I navigated the handful of turns to get us home. We only talked about what work still needed to be done and how soon we could return. We may be turning into lake people after all.