Between the states and the middle America that watches over the milky skies and stars over the inland plateaus and valleys, there is a flatland town washed over in potato pasties and fried battered fish that I call home. It is home to people who left and came back. It is also home to people who never left.
It spreads out on a map like any other small town except with lots of water. The water ages you. It soaks you and wrinkles you until you rise out of the water imitating a raisin. As a child, I was the daughter of lake country. But upon coming back to this town, I’ve noticed the sun-induced deep creases and lines in my skin with some memories I’d like to fold up and slip into my suitcase while others I’d prefer to leave under the water.
Mosquitos haunt lake country like the ghost of your elementary school best friend. Do you wonder what they’re doing sometimes? Do they slip into your mind unknowingly until you’re drenched in sprinkler water with your feet covered in soft pieces of grass? The mosquitos hum above the still water and taunt you: they know you’re there, you know they’re there, now who’s going to make the first move?
You follow the old wooded dock towards the deepening water and you watch for the slivers that you used to not know about until they were a millimeter deep in your heel. You’re older now and a little wiser, but after thinking about it, not that much wiser. You kind of wish that if you fall into the water your mom and dad will jump in after you because you’re not that good of a swimmer yet. But now you stand in the water and three quarters of your body are in the air and it’s cold.
There are people missing now from the lake country you knew years back: your grandmother that loved you but had a hard time showing it until her last days, and your cousins Golden Retriever and German Shorthair. You’re afraid to show people where you came from because you’re afraid to face the differences from how you once saw this place. But then you remember it’s always been like this, looked like this, smelled like this.
The big house on the water is now average-sized and the pontoon is much smaller than you thought it was. But it was always that way, I remind myself. I can still be the daughter of lake country even though there are other places I like more. It’s not betrayal, it's just how it is.