Memories of Desert and Lakes . . . and Our Rainy Respite

As a desert-born girl, I hate the rain. I don’t like it dripping on me. And I hate the Midwestern humidity – I’ve never adapted to it in 33 years of living in Missouri.

This hot, dry summer of Midwestern drought has brought back many memories of the hot, dry summers I knew growing up. When I was a teenager, I spent many summer afternoons by pool or lake, basking in the sun till I burned. (I’ll probably pay the price someday with sun-aged skin.)

But it was a “dry heat,” as the joke now goes, and I loved it at the time. After I swam, the sun dried me off in minutes, sucking the water right off my skin. There was no need to compete with dank humid air like I do in Missouri; the desert sky would absorb any liquid offered.

Theresa and brother at Lake of the Woods, circa 1960

My family sometimes took beach vacations, but more often we went to a lake. My first memory of a lake vacation was at Lake of the Woods in Oregon with my grandparents.  Later, my family rented cabins with friends on Lake Wallowa in Oregon, on Priest Lake in Idaho, and then many summers on Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho.

My parents bought a lot and built a cabin on Coeur d’Alene Lake when I was in high school.  We’d leave the cabin mid-morning and head for our dock on the lake, and not go back inside until mid-afternoon. (You can see from the picture on the right taken from the cabin deck how far down it was to the lake, and why we wouldn’t climb the hill again until we had to.)

View of dock from cabin deck, Coeur d’Alene Lake, circa 1972

We wiled away the day swimming and waterskiing and sunning, eating whatever snacks we’d brought with us in the morning.  When the food and Pepsi was gone, it was time to go inside.

When I got too hot, I jumped into the snow-fed lake. It was so cold my mother wouldn’t get in until after the Fourth of July.  But I once had to swim in the lake in April to rescue my sister’s doll. It was Sleeping Doll, so named because my sister could not sleep without it. She had launched poor Sleeping Doll on a raft that headed for deep waters, and my sister could not yet swim. That day the water was colder than I liked! But during the summer, the lake was refreshing.

Despite my preference for the desert and hatred of rain, I have to say that this past Friday morning, when I went outside after an all-morning meeting and felt the first remnants of Hurricane Isaac arrive in Kansas City, I smiled. I didn’t even mind walking to my car in the rain. A little water never really hurt anyone; I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West (despite what my children might tell you).

It started raining mid-day Friday, and continued all day Saturday.  Around my home, we got 1.5 inches of rain on Friday, and another 2.5 inches on Saturday, if weather reports are to be believed.  Not enough to make up for the drought this summer, but enough to make the grass perk up.

In fact, I watched our lawn drink in the rain like we guzzled those dockside Pepsis on lazy summer days so long ago. And I could see the shrubs smiling at the rain as much as I had when I came out of my meeting.

Summer will probably return for a last hurrah, maybe even before this post goes live. But in the meantime, we all relish the cooler temperatures and rain-soaked ground.

Soon enough, autumn and winter will be here. And we’ll miss the heat of summer. Like I miss the lakeside summers of my youth.

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