Archive for June, 2011

Falling In Love Again, What Am I To Do…?

So, we have this lakehouse.

Actually that sounds grander than it actually is, especially compared to some of the big honkin’ houses up there that are waaay nicer than our REAL house– but to call it a “cabin” sounds like I’m trying to go all Abe Lincoln on ya, and “cottage” doesn’t quite get it either because that conjures up images of some kind of retro Lake Woebegone style motel… So heretofore I’ll just refer to it as a lakehouse and you guys can use your imaginations. Basically, it’s a little house in Smithville, TN that we bought decades ago, which we jokingly named Windsong Fishing Lodge. It actually had quite a lovely view of the lake when we bought it, but would now best be described as having “a wooded setting.” Because trees grow, ya’ll.

**And That’s What I Love About the South, Reason #489:   Entering Smithville. How do you not love a town that still has a big-ass water tower? There also used to be a store on the main road called ‘Shoes and Cheese’, which only sold pairs of shoes and wheels of local cheese. I am not even kidding.

Before the girls were born, Russ and I used to go up there for days, even weeks at a time. He would fish and (when I got bored) I would jump in his old Jeep and just take off down any country road that struck my fancy. I roamed all over rural Tennessee, and discovered so many treasures– quaint town squares, funky little restaurants, state parks, flea markets, and old time general stores. A couple of times we even purposely headed up to the lakehouse when a winter storm was predicted, just so we could get snowed in!

** Surrounding countryside– I believe the word we’re looking for here is “bucolic.”

Our love affair with our little lakehouse continued after the girls came along. Some of my favorite baby pictures of Madi Rose and Charlotte were taken there– Madi bouncing away in one of those doorway jumper things that Russ hooked up to the balcony railing, Charlotte skinny dipping in a plastic wading pool on the deck, both of them taking their turn “driving” down the dirt road in their Daddy’s lap… Those kind of things. But gradually, as sometimes happens with love affairs, we started letting other things get in the way of being together. With Russ gone most weekends and the girls in school, over the years we just slowly started not going up there as often as we used to. Instead of spending days or weeks there during the summer, we began venturing farther away and vacationing in other places like Savannah, or the beach. We had a few close friends that we happily offered the lakehouse to, and sometimes I went up alone to write but eventually, as a family, we just went up there less and less. Then last year, we got a phone call from the water company that something was wrong, and we figured out a pipe had burst. We had the water shut off and decided to wait until warmer weather to deal with it– chances are it would be kind of expensive, and it is always a hassle to try to hire someone long-distance. Months went by, and there it sat. And then more months went by.

Luckily, a phone call from my sister Liz jump-started our lakehouse mojo. Over the years, she and her husband John have occasionally come up to Smithville over the 4th of July weekend for the annual Fiddler’s Jamboree, then stayed over and relaxed for a few days. When she asked if the house would maybe be available this year, I was embarrassed to admit that we had woefully neglected it, and some repairs would need to be done first– but I would LOVE to have them come, and it was just the kick in the pants we needed to get things back in working order. I tracked down a local plumber, and arranged the whole thing by phone. Sweet Mr. Barnes dutifully reported that the repairs were done, though it had taken a crew of three men two full days to fix everything. (And yes it did cost some $$$, but not nearly as much as it would be in a big city– yay for mom and pop businesses!)

So yesterday, the girls and I decided to drive up to the lakehouse, check everything out and start the cleaning process, since we knew it had not had a good top to bottom scrubbing in like, YEARS, and it would definitely take more than one day to get it all done. We were kind of excited and looking forward to seeing the old place again, and the drive was just as beautiful as we remembered. We passed through little unincorporated communities with names like Cherry Valley, Liberty and Watertown. Roadside fruit stands manned by bib-overalled country boys were lined with big plank tables, sagging under the weight of bushel baskets full of garden vegetables. Trucks with oversized tires… Walk-up dairy bars… Smiling porch-wavers…  I love Tennessee.

**My favorite local church sign (have you ever heard of this denomination?):

**Here’s another thing you see along country roads this time of year (this was a baby, it was really cute!):

**It tried to hide. Baby skunks apparently don’t know that hunkering down does not make you invisible.

Now, here’s where this charming story loses it’s homespun edge.

Since our house is in the middle of the woods, we have a monthly contract with a pest extermination company to keep all the creepy-crawlies at bay. We have a tendency to get those scary-but-harmless daddy long legs spiders, as well as basement crickets the size of Volkswagons which TOTALLY FUH-REAK the girls the heck out. (OK, and me, too.) So even though I knew we’d be knocking cobwebs down like crazy, I wasn’t too worried– I brought a big ol’ duster with a telescoping handle, so I was ready to rock!

About 20 minutes from the house, I called sweet Mr. Barnes the plumber to check and see if he had left the water on, or if I would need to go under the house and turn it back on. He said it was indeed off, and then right before we got off the phone he casually said, “You’ll probably want to check with your pest control people to make sure they totally took care of your mice problem.”

I dang near drove off the road.

WHAT “MICE PROBLEM”???? We’ve never had mice up there, ever! (Well, ok I think a couple of them were hanging out around the basement a few years ago, but they apparently moved away without incident.) I cannot tell you the creep factor that overtook me at the sound of those two nasty words. I almost turned around and drove right back home– but I was committed to reclaim my long lost love of a lakehouse, so I just decided to put on my big girl panties and leap on the grenade. To mix metaphors.

The girls took a little more convincing.

However by the time we pulled down the steep driveway of our place, we had mentally girded our respective loins and were determined to face our fears. This might be a good time to mention that leaving a big bargain bag of sunflower seeds in the pantry of a house in the middle of the woods for umpteen months undisturbed is PROBABLY NOT A GREAT IDEA. Well, not if you’re human; the mice apparently thought it was a fabulous idea– an unlimited all-you-can-eat buffet in a nice cozy atmosphere!  There were plenty of tiny nice, neat piles of  empty shells thoughtfully left out right where we could find them. Thankfully, it appears that the mice did not actually infest the place, and also it looks as though they have not been there for quite a while. I found out that our pest control company also covers *shudder* rodents *shudder*, and had taken steps to get rid of them a few months ago when they had seen some evidence. So all that was left to do was clean up the ‘memories’ of our little visitors, and then go into extensive years of therapy to purge our brains of the Defcon 11 Level Meltdown Mental After-effects of MICE!!  IN OUR LAKEHOUSE!!!

(Oh hai, Liz! Looking forward to your little vacation?!)

Seriously– all four Taffs are now busily engaged in an ongoing process of cleaning, disinfecting and bleaching the crap out of every square inch of the lakehouse. And oddly enough, it is kind of bonding us to the place again. Nothing says ‘reclaiming your space’ quite like attacking your abode with a barrage of heavy duty sanitizing chemicals…

And for all of you readers out there that are laughing up your sleeve right now at our city-folk over-reaction to finding out that a few of God’s little wild creatures had scurried about our living space? All I can say is…


**And in closing: On the plus side, we found all kinds of wonderfully/horribly dated clothing at the bottom of one of the dresser drawers. Madi may or may not have laughed herself into a coma. She also brought some of them home, and will actually wear them.

Here’s a picture of me proudly displaying the vest version of mom jeans, circa 1992– (Surprisingly, this was not one of the things Madi opted to keep.)

Wordless Wednesday: Birthday Flowers Edition

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