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  • 執筆者の写真Joseph Simurdiak

IMMORTAL SUMMER AT BERRY LAKE



As winter sets in, the looming new year provokes me to some reflection on the past twelve months. And one of the biggest highlights, certainly, was my three-week visit to the U.S. last summer—including a southeast trip to visit my large extended family in Lower Michigan.

 

So much of my childhood was spent around Jackson, Rives Junction, and of course Berry Lake, so I could scarecly believe that five whole years had gone by since my last visit. Those visits used to happen three, sometimes four times a year when I was growing up, and so the whole place—especially the lake, which is entwined with my very conception of summer—feels like a home that’s never very far from my spirit. Much like my home in Northern Wisconsin, I carry the place in in me so closely that I don’t often feel the separation or the distance.

 

Yet living in Japan now has made my visits more infrequent—and for the first time, though it seems impossible, an entire half decade slipped by without me being there.

 

So I was happy when a cousin’s wedding gave my mom, brother, sister, and I the perfect occasion to make the trip out there and see everyone again. The oddest part of seeing all my cousins, aunts, and uncles again was that, to me at least, barely any time seems to have passed at all. Many of the cousins I grew up with now have kids of their own, and yet, for all that has changed, so much has stayed the same in the way we talk, tell stories, laugh, reminisce, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s as though there’s an eternal, immutable heart at the center of our connections that weathers all surface changes.


A walk down to Berry Lake, that jewel of the family property, is a lesson in this subjective element of time, and the experience strikes me as almost supernatural. Strolling from Uncle John and Aunt Linda’s house down to the cabin, and from the cabin down to the lake, crossing the wooden bridge over the channel, and passing the bonfire pit down to the shore where familiar faces are already gathered, I feel as if I and every past version of myself exist there at once. Here is the orchard where my cousins and I used to have apple fights after dark; there are the woods where we built brushwood forts and fought epic skirmishes with wooden swords and shields. When I feel that familiar grass and sand under my toes, I am thirty-two years old, and at the same time I am twenty-four, and I am twenty, and I am fifteen, and I am ten. Five years ago becomes yesterday; ten years ago becomes last summer.


On the Sunday after the wedding, cousin Johnny invited a few of us over to his place to work on a project in his shed. We gathered there with some beer, snacks, and a bit of sake I brought from Japan. There were a couple newer faces there as well, as Johnny and Joseph had their own kids along. The project was a Risk board, for games of global domination like the ones we used to play on summer nights (often with one of the Lord of the Rings films playing in the background) after swimming in the lake. Only this new board would be huge, carved into a table the size of a general’s war room map. That afternoon, we finished carving out of the shapes of the continents. The board itself will still take awhile to complete, but once finished, it will be magnificent.

 

And it occurred to me, as I cracked a bottle of Blue Moon and looked over the power tools, sawdust, and the outlines of the continents taking shape, and the kids playing outside, and the summer sunlight streaming in with the warm prospect of a coming picnic and swim, that the continuity between the adults we are now and the boys we used to be felt entirely natural. We’d more or less turned out as just the sort of grown-ups I’d always hoped we’d be.

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