It’s that time of year. School is in session. Backpacks line the back doorway. Yellow busses line the streets. Bedtimes and wake-times are earlier than in the previous months. Mornings are resoundingly announced by alarm clocks – something unheard of during June, July and August.

Summer has officially ended. Sigh. The warm weather morphs into autumn and for my family that means one thing: closing up the cabin.

We wash bedding and empty the fridge thinking how pleasant it will be to return to a clean house next spring. We clean toilets that aren’t really even dirty. We scrub tubs and vacuum one last time. Even though these are chores, we are at the lake and the air somehow feels different. More peaceful. More relaxing than at home. The lake will do that to you.

I pass out the last of the summer’s freezies to neighborhood kids, who have come to know that my fridge has a never-ending supply. I let them pick their color of choice. Somehow purple and blue are always the first to go. I’m impressed that all of the children (or nearly so) say “Thank you” each time they are handed something as simple as a freezie pop.

My husband, sons and I muddle through getting the boat out of the water every year. (Thank goodness for our sons’ help.) It is the one piece of stress associated with lake life. (That, and not catching any fish.) We acknowledge the tension involved with backing the trailer into the cool/cold lake water, lining up the pontoon so that it sits atop the metal supports, finding a way to get the trailer fitted precisely over the ball hitch and then remembering to hitch the hitch pin. My husband often has to take off his shoes and socks and roll up his jeans to wade into the water and complete the task. It’s exhausting – for me, and I’ve never had to put my feet into the cold water or hitch the hitch.

I’ll be honest and admit that when we’ve completed the task we’ve definitely reached an hour that’s happy.

At the end of the day, when all the chores are done, we sit on a neighbor’s deck and chat about everything and nothing. Where did summer go? Any vacations planned for the winter months? The deck is full because no one needs an invitation to socialize. Lake life is unscripted; it happens spontaneously, in the best of ways.

It’s a comfortable camaraderie that comes from being in a place, in a space, that just feels right and good and full and happy. Darkness comes too quickly and it’s time to return to the warmth and comfort of the cabin.

It’s always bittersweet — saying goodbye to the long, unhurried and carefree days at the lake. I’ve learned over the years that despite June feeling like the beginning of a decade-long summer, the season progresses at breakneck speed and the next 12 weeks unfold faster than a leap year February. Probably faster.

I realize I am lucky. Although the end of something pleasant can be difficult, I know my family’s time at the cabin is precious and not something everyone can count on. Our time at the lake over the years has been life-illuminating. Even my kids acknowledge this truth; my husband and I a hundred times over that.

Our kids grew up as lake rats. I wouldn’t change that for anything. And now we have another generation — our granddaughter — who is learning to love the lake, or in her words, “wa-wa.” (Which is short for water, for those of you not fluent in toddler-speak.)

Fall is here. Winter is coming. We are closing up our lake, but counting the days until next spring when we return. Can’t wait to put the boat back into the water.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook. Pertler writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.

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