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.)

18 Responses

  1. delightedabroad

    Wow, it’s never going to be boring with the Taff family, right? You’re sooo brave, y’all :-)
    The picture of the surrounding countryside could have been taken a few kilometers from where we live! I immediately felt at home.

  2. meb

    More pictures of the quilts please. Is that a “crazy quilt” behind you? And were these treasures you found when out and about on the country lanes? (I’m a quilter in my, ahem, spare time – so I love seeing these and the stories behind them.)

  3. belinda

    I want to come visit you at your lake house. I will help clean.

    So in that picture I see all of that green border, is that what you painted? I remember a conversation about that once.

    Enjoy your lakehouse and the Taff bounding time. Love you guys! Any more pictures of the lake house?

  4. LindaB

    Lovely lake house, Tori! And what I’d like to know is how in the heck did you get two teenage girls to clean that much?? And can I borrow them?

    I noticed the stenciled border first thing too, Belinda! I painted one of those borders around our foyer——grapevine, I think. I don’t look up there anymore ’cause now I’m tired of it and I wish I hadn’t done it. I did it when I was young……and thinner, and didn’t think a thing of climbing up a ten foot ladder, balancing a pail of paint and a paint roller. But NOW, I wouldn’t dream of climbing that high. My husband wouldn’t let me. My insurance company wouldn’t either. So, I guess I can’t paint over it now. I’m stuck with it.

    Hey wait! PAINTBALLS!

  5. tori

    delightedabroad: Yeah, “boring” is not a word that came up even once! And I agree, there is an almost European feel to the local woods and farmland there. Just gorgeous, really.

    meb: Yes– it is a crazy quilt that I found on my wanderings! It is fading, but still lovely. Lots of silk and velvet and embroidery, one of my favorite pieces in the house! I WILL try to get a photo of a couple of other ones for you– there is an old pink Depression-era one with all of the state birds of the U.S. stitched on it, and a really faded small blue and white one that has some scenes from the Bible on it. I just love them– wish I knew how to quilt!

    belinda: Trust me, we could use you! Yes, I did stencil that border– two stories worth. A looooooong time ago.

    LindaB: I think the idea of coming up and spending some time there this summer got them motivated– also, I was driving and I had the keys. And yeah, I can’t imagine balancing on a two story ladder and hand-stenciling all around the whole dang house these days either. Though the paintball idea is a little intriguing…

  6. anna

    you are so talented at writing…you made me feel like actually being there….the house is lovely…you are lovely too…y

  7. bettyrwoodward

    Beautiful lakehouse and scenery. Can’t wait to get to Tennessee in 2013 with my family! Love the quilts too.

  8. jonny

    Timing is everything ! This weekend is one of the top three holidays in Finland. It’s Mid-Summer ! This weekend around 80 percent of the Finnish population, if not more, are at their summer cottages, or lake houses, enjoying nature, sauna, and lots of food !! OK, quite a few are probably deep in a bottle as well, but I tend to turn a blind eye on that one.

    For over twenty years now I also thought the word was ‘butolic’ ! Good to finally see it spelled out, and yes, TN is; or can be = )

    Oh, and I often wondered what it would take to be man enough and jump on live grenade if ever in such a situation.

  9. carsmith

    Glad that Liz gave you reason to return to your home away from home. Perfect place for displaying those beautiful quilts. I’m trying to figure out how you ever painted the stencil going down the wall on the right side of the picture. That must have taken a really tall ladder.

    Be glad you had itty bitty visitors and not squirrels. Our neighbors found their lake house had been inhabited by squirrels that moved in over the winter. They did major damage and it wasn’t a pretty site.
    Sounds like you all will be making more memories at the lakehouse.

  10. carsmith

    I just checked out the links….what’s not to love about this area. Love the pictures of the quaint town square, drop dead gorgeous Rock Island State park and flea market ad. The General Store states they are closed on Mondays or NOT and have real 1950’s milkshakes.
    T.T. start looking for checks to arrive in the mail soon from the chamber of commerce or the Mom and Pop store.

  11. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Along with more quilts, I’d like to see more of the lake house. Those get-away places are always so precious. My mom and dad for many years had a small cottage on the beach of the Delaware Bay where we could look across and see the New Jersey shores. My children grew up there. It was more or less a country beach…perfect for children. Our family has so many memories of those days of swimming, water skiing, fishing, and all of those summer fun things. In the winter they went duck hunting. The day came when we had moved so far away from it that we made the decision to sell the little cottage. A couple years ago one of my sons and I happened to b 3e close enough to drive by and a neighbor had a key, asking us if we wanted to see what the now-owners had done to the cottage. Excitedly, we took her up on the offer. What a terrible mistake….for “they” had ruined my memories. Gone was the open screened-in porch with the wonderful view of the long beach leading down to the gentle waves…the sound of those waves that had put me to sleep so many nights were muffled…..and the large open room where family and friends gathered to eat churns of homemade icecream and talk about the fish caught that day had been cut up into four smaller rooms. The charm was lost and it made me so sad I wanted to cry. Our little beach home was now no more than the memories I felt at that moment had been robbed from me. So then, last year I was asked if I wanted to visit the people who bought our home several years ago, after we had lived there for more than 25 years. I declined…..no more messing around with my precious memories.

  12. Barbara M. Lloyd

    By the way, sweet Tori, your lake house sounds just like the perfect place for you and Russ to go and write his life story. You can take breaks and go fishing with Char for dinner….Madi can help fish when home from college. Sounds like a plan to me.

    For now, I can hardly wait for that next cd?

  13. MostlySunny

    What a wonderful place of memories! Glad you’re enjoying it again. Love those little towns where time seems to stand still.

    Barbara M Lloyd – I hear ya!!! I hate to see what someone has done to “my” house to make it (so-called) “better”!

    johnny – Happy “Mid-Summer”.

  14. jonny

    Thanks ! It was a good one = )

  15. Cynthia

    Oh Honey, you might call it Bucolic, and it is, but I’d call it simply beautiful. So green and lush, makes me wonder what sort of critters are crawling around in those hedgerows.

  16. gbowdoin

    I stumbled upon your blog today and I am smiling ear-to-ear. I am from McMinnville and absolutely love Smithville’s charm. The church that you posted a picture of is pronounced THEE Baptist (folks around there don’t usually add the “Church of Christ” part and my grandmother was a THE Baptist all of her life. So was my first husband. The churches are slowly dying out, but I can remember years of services and popsicle stick fans provided by the funeral homes to keep congregants cool in the summertime.

    I hope you enjoy your stay in Smithville! If you need a Wal-Mart, I believe the closest one is McMinnville. :)

  17. tori

    gbowdoin– Welcome! So glad you found us, don’t be a stranger. I have never in my life heard of that particular denomination– and I thought I knew them all!
    One of my best friends in the world is from McMinnville– her married name is Lynne Shaw, I’ll have to ask her about her maiden name, maybe you know her…? We sure do love Smithville– and hey, now they have their very own Wal-Mart! (I know this because we were there about 20 frillion times in 4 days.)

  18. gbowdoin

    I don’t know her by her married name, but I might know her by her maiden name. My name is Ge-Anne Bowdoin. I taught in Warren County for 9 years, then moved to Georgia, where I have lived since 2003. I love it down here, mainly because it reminds me of home. :)

    The lake house is beautiful. I know it was tons of work, but I am sure you guys will love having it up and running again!

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