Dock memories by Cathy Reineke
The dock was born one weekend in May, in Montana, when I was fourteen. My father bought lakeshore frontage. Only the two of us went up for that long weekend to build the dock. The lake was at low pool (down 15 feet). We had a short envelope of time to build our dock.
My father believed a daughter was as likely as a son to be a builder and taught me to wield a mean hammer. First we dug holes for barrels, sunk them into the ground, and then placed poles into the barrels and filled them with cement. After the cement set, we put up stringers between the poles and placed in the cross braces. Finally, top planks went on and voila, we had the dock.
I sat on that dock over many summers. On fuzzy nights of too much beer, a few special friends discovered my secret as they lay in the dark at the end of the dock. “This is a special place,” they’d say with voices full of quiet awe.
The dock formed a sturdy platform to launch ourselves into the water. Mother grew her powerful petunias in big black witches caldrons placed at each post on the dock announcing that summer had truly arrived. Each summer upon my return, the dock creaked its welcome to the chaise lounge placed at the end of the dock. Sun was best there. A quick step off the dock into the water always cooled my sun-scalded skin.
On a wintry day, my boyfriend joined me there for the first time. He found my heart when he stood on the dock and remarked, “I cannot believe anyone could have grown up with all of this.”
Years passed and I moved away. Mother sold the cabin when she could no longer cope with the isolation and stillness after my father was gone. A lovely couple staked their claim. The dock filled with rambunctious children, gaggles of life jackets, and boats tied to its sturdy deck. New voices echoed out over the bay.
After many years away, I came back to visit friends. I decided to drive by the lake place. I found my way through the maze of dirt roads. There upon my dock, stood the couple who had bought the place from mother many years before.
Pictures of tanned young girls in new swimsuits returned to me. Mom came down to the dock with her incredibly delicious tuna fish sandwiches. Dad instructed me to “Put that level to the post and make sure it is straight up”, as he placed cement into the barrel. And there I stood that last day, packing mother’s belongings into my car, turning my back to the dock, not watching our time end.
I climbed out of my car and walked toward the couple on the dock who turned to look at me. “Are you lost?” the husband asked. “No” I said as I walked onto the dock. I smiled and extended my hand as I introduced myself feeling that familiar slight give of my dock under the weight of my feet.
“I know exactly where I am”.
photos by cincooldesigns and jurvetson
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