No recipe today … I wrote this essay last year after one of my Mother’s dearest friends and a charter member of The Ladies of the Beach lost her battle with cancer. Sally was the epitome of all that was right with The Circle. This past summer we lost Martha. I count myself lucky to have known them both. I will always remember the kindness, care and the beautiful smiles of these two courageous Ladies.
Since the piece was first published, I have received many requests to post, print or republish it. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I can’t think of a better time to post the essay and remind all women to get checked. Thank you.
When I was eleven, my family bought a summer/ski house near Pleasant Lake. It was the perfect spot for my sister, brother and me. The neighborhood was filled with families, all with kids more or less our age. We spent winter weekends and vacations on King Ridge. Summers we spent most of our time in, on and around the lake.
Although we enjoyed a wonderful sense of freedom, we were never far from watchful and caring eyes. Not just our parents and grandparents; my sister, brother and I were protected by a whole network of neighbors who acted as surrogate relatives. The Moms in our neighborhood were mostly stay-at-home. They knew each other’s children and all our quirks. They knew who took jelly with their peanut butter and who took fluff. They even knew that I was the only kid in the United States who didn’t like peanut butter. They knew who was having trouble with math and who needed to work on the bean bag toss. They applauded the successes of each and every kid in the neighborhood. And they still do.
The Moms kept an eye on each other’s children and made sure we stayed on the straight and narrow. If we strayed, there was always someone to give us and our conscience a nudge. If we fell, there was someone there to pick us up. Whether we were throwing crab apples at the new kid, trying to cut the ski lift line at King Ridge or hitchhiking, someone’s mother would show up to ask gently but firmly, “Does your Mother know what you are doing?” Or in the case of hitchhiking, it might have been phrased as “Get in this car this minute; does your Mother know what you’re doing?” When we were teenagers, we thought they were nosey and prying. Many years later, we know they were just looking out for us.
In the summer on Pleasant Lake, my Mother and her friends gathered every afternoon at the beach. Known as The Ladies of the Beach, they pulled their beach chairs into The Circle to chat and share ideas large and small. Summer is a great time to kick back and relax; but even in the summer, they followed our progress, our triumphs and mishaps. We could run, but we couldn’t hide.
The Ladies knew us well. As we got older they worried about who we were dating and if we were sneaking a few beers on the beach at night. They knew where we were going to college and our majors. Keeping track of our jobs has been a little bit more difficult with all the changes in technology and economic booms and busts, but they do their best. They continue to keep track of each others’ sons- and daughters-in-law and grandchildren.
For forty years, we have been lucky and blessed to have The Ladies of the Beach in our lives. They have encouraged us, cheered us on and celebrated with us. An African proverb tells us that it takes a village to raise a child. On Pleasant Lake, it takes a Circle.
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Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2008