“I Love to Laugh,” long and loud…OK so I know all the words of the songs in Mary Poppins. The challenge is to tell about something that transports to childhood…let the transporting begin!
Every grade-school summer, from about a week after the end of the school year to a couple of weeks before the beginning of the next school year, our family lived at the small cottage on Pearl Lake outside of Redgranite, Wis. This lake is in the sand country of Waushara County. Sand that is sparkly tan going toward white, or a little red in some places and creates a lake bottom that is nicely firm, if you do enough walking over it to squish the weeds. I didn’t like walking in weeds as a kid so I swam over any weeds I could. Otherwise, a totally lovely place, of course our beach had/has lots of rocks in with the sand.
The cottage, is a white cottage with an almost flat roof. A cobbled together, old, recycled combination of things from 1949 and 1960s and 70s building cycles build on a cement and rock base (the rocks mostly were picked up from the beach).
Actually there are also some recent updates which have expanded the kitchen (moved it out of darkness) and improved the flow. But I remember how we would awaken in our bunk beds to the sounds of Dad making breakfast on the small gas stove and the smells of pancakes on the iron griddle or burning toast in the toaster and coffee – Dad loved coffee. Mom was the one who was always playing records; Moon River, Que Sera Sera, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins soundtrack. Dad liked the Big Band Era, Peter and the Wolf, Sheherazad and lots of orchestral arrangements.
We’d have breakfast on the porch table in our swimming suits if it was anywhere near warm enough and get ready for a day of doing things in or on the lake. Of course there were chores to complete first, dish washing, housecleaning and any project we were working on and these were done to music. The sand came in with us each day and had to be removed each morning.
In the early days I remember doing the wash outside with a ringer washer on the porch cement slab, wooden spoon to push the clothes into the ringer and a metal tub of rinse water, then ringer again and then hang on the line. The fear of getting caught in the ringer made it memorable.
If it wasn’t warm enough, or was raining the chores still had to be done, but after, or before if you wanted to procrastinate, it was reading or puzzles or games to music. Oak trees, huge cottonwoods that swayed threateningly in the summer storms, and white pines surrounded us as did black locust trees, which were seen as bad trees because they wanted to fill in everywhere – now they have, as no-one has been chopping them back. They all stayed very drippy after rains. Small cottages mean kids are booted outside as soon as possible – “go out and play,” which was fine with us.
I didn’t get to see the movie Mary Poppins until well after I learned all the songs from the record. I remember seeing the movie in a theatre, inside, so it was likely in the fall as most of the summer movies we saw were at the outdoor theater in Wautoma. I sang all the songs, people in the theater noticed my accompaniment, although I didn’t realize it until informed later. Oh well – hey, I knew all the words!