I first met my husband’s family over a Memorial Day weekend at the cottage that his great-grandfather built on a bright, clear interior lake in Michigan northeast of Traverse City. With the assistance of a handyman, Daniel J. Beeby, a Chicago Public School Superintendent, floated lumber across Lake Bellaire to his land in a thicket of pine and birch, and over the course of the summer of 1913 constructed, by hand, the house now known as Chez Nous.
We had only been dating a few months, so introducing me to his parents, brother and grandmother was a risky move. Chancier still was that this place elicited his most exposed, relaxed, vulnerable and unguarded self. No more game face or peacock strut.
This was also the weekend that the family held a memorial for their deceased childhood pup which his grandmother requested I photograph. An odd thing to be tasked with, but how do you say no to grandma? The family stood, arms linked and sniffling, beneath the feathery pines trimming the shoreline eulogizing their cherished pet. I balanced precariously on the sloped beach trying to capture this event as unobtrusively as possible. All was cracked open for me to see, no holding back. It was here, over this weekend where I really started to fall in love.
Todd and I have been in each other’s orbit for 12 years now. There have been moves, a break-up, funerals, weddings, more moves and new life. But this house remains, largely as it has for five generations.
Sure, there have been dramatic changes in the family and on the lake itself, but so much remains comfortingly constant. The deep William Morris chair with imposing lion head arms has always been the coveted reading spot; the creaky porch glider continues to lull family members into mid-day slumber; the dining room table still supports heaviness and joy under which lesser pieces would have cracked; and family lore and rivalry continue to play out on the root tangled croquet course.
Just like his father, our son now builds castles on that crescent of sandy shore, he swings a croquet mallet, pulls book after dusty book from the sagging shelves and his height is charted each summer adding to the climbing hash marks on the wall of every grand and great grand kid before him.
And every summer I’m reminded that love is something into which you can just keep falling.
I love this piece, Laura. You’ve captured the honor it somehow is to be considered a “rank outsider” at Chez Nous.
oh dear darling, i FINALLY figured out how to get the RSS feed to flow into my email like a river, and this is what i found first. and it is sooooooooooo beautiful what if i’d missed it? you are the best, my beautiful friend, and now i can truly truly keep in touch. so sorry i couldn’t figure it out till now. love, bam