Each summer, family and friends have gathered at Beech Hill Pond in Otis, where we’ve basked in the sun, splashed in the water, and made memories that are still vivid, even as time rushes onward.
My family and I appreciate those days. Cherish them, even.
At least, I’d like to think we do.
But not as much as we could.
That’s what I learned a couple of weeks ago, when a couple of young guests accompanied my stepchildren to camp for a day.
One of those 12-year-olds didn’t grow up on a lake in Maine. His family’s from India, and he lived in Australia before moving to Maine a few years back.
As we arrived at camp, as if on cue, I heard a familiar sound from across the lake.
“Did you hear that?” I asked. “Loon.”
“Loon?” he asked, confused.
I chuckled, walked with him to the side of the camp, and showed him the loon-themed thermometer. “That’s a loon. It’s a big bird, and we just heard its call.”
Again, on cue, the loon spoke up, and my stepson’s friend smiled.
Later in the day, in another regular occurrence, we had visitors paddle by for a visit: A mother duck and a half dozen or so good-sized offspring looked ashore curiously, wondering if we’d throw them a snack.
“Ducks!” our visitor exclaimed, his eyes wide. Then, bashfully, he admitted something I’d never heard anyone say before. “Ducks are my favorite animal. This is great.”
When the ducks showed up, it made his day. When they marched ashore and surrounded him, it made his year.
As I sat there, watching the duck parade, I began to think and I haven’t stopped since.
Through the eyes of a 12-year-old who hasn’t spent every summer of his life on a Maine lake, that day was not only special, it was new.
So, how much had I been missing? Or, at the very least, how much have I begun to take for granted?
The first time the ducks showed up — certainly more than a decade ago, maybe more like 25 years — it was a big deal to me, too. My nephews and niece loved it, as did my parents. And I was right there beside them, tossing bread to the ducks, as other lake-dwellers surely had been doing.
(I know, I know: My colleague, Aislinn Sarnacki, has told me to stop feeding bread to ducks … so I have … as far as you know).
But after many summers of waddling (the ducks, not me, though both would be accurate), I’ve become accustomed to our regular visitors. When they show up, I don’t say, “Wow!” Instead, I’m more apt to say, “The ducks are here again. I was wondering when they’d show up.”
Over 50 summers or so, we’ve seen a lot of things at our lakeside camp. The moments remain vivid, but that wide-eyed wonder has faded over the years.
I remember that we caught hundreds of tadpoles — polliwogs, to us — until the bass were introduced and ate them all.
And I can recall the time I nearly jumped out of the boat one hot afternoon when I was interrupted during a slow troll by an irate beaver who slapped his tail at me.
I remember waking up as a child, amazed at the reflection off the shimmering waves as they danced across the walls of the camp during breakfast.
I remember spending days on end without ever putting on a pair of shoes.
And the ducks.
Once, all of those things were new. Now they’re not.
Thankfully, my stepson’s friend helped me realize even the familiar scenes ought to be appreciated for what they are.
They’re all special things and times, in a special place, not to be taken for granted.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke