My favorite cabin activity - waterskiing - clearly wasn’t for everyone.
By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Cool water sprayed my sun-kissed face as my teenage body popped out of the lake and began gliding with a sleek effervescence behind our Sea Ray boat. I delighted in the rhythmic slurp of slicing water as my fiberglass ski skimmed the surface. I bent my knees and pressed down on my left leg to cross the wake until I was nearly parallel with my dad, who was piloting the boat.
These are recent photos of the author in what she calls her “sweet spot” – skiing at her family’s cabin on Mullett Lake, located at the northern tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Then I pivoted my ski tip and zoomed across both wakes, gripping the handle with one hand and waving at my mom with the other. Mom smiled and waved back, thrilled to see me in my sweet spot. Skiing was my summertime meditation. Being out in nature, on the water, flexing my muscles, freeing my mind, the activity awakened all my senses. As I rode the water, I took inventory of the cawing seagulls overhead, the distant hum of passing motorists and the squeal of adolescents riding tubes. A fishy odor penetrated my nostrils before the savory scent of campfire smoke wafting downwind took its place. As the late-day sun warmed my cheeks, cool water licked at my calves. Every magical moment melded together to form a “sense-sational” imprint of summers on the lake. After three loops around the cove, I released the ski rope and glided gracefully into the lake, unfastening my Velcro gloves as the chilly water tickled my belly button. “Hey, Mom!” I hollered. “Your turn!” “Nope,” Mom replied succinctly, adding the traditional rebuttal: “Not ’til I lose 10 pounds.” “C’mon,” I pressed. “The lake’s like glass. There’s no better time to try.” I’m not sure if Mom was feeling gutsy, or, if after years of begging, I’d simply worn her down. “Okay,” she submitted as she snapped on her life jacket and jumped off the swim platform. I threw Mom the rope and offered last-minute instructions: “Lean back, bend your knees and adjust with your arms!”
LEFT: The author as a teenager with her brave mom when they weren’t on skis. The author’s parents (circa mid-1990s), enjoying quiet time by the lake.
On her first try, the rope slipped out of her hands. The second time, she let the boat’s initial lurch pull her arms forward. On the third endeavor, her legs were too straight. Each attempt had her gulping a good bit of lake water, but finally she got up. Though her shoulders were hunched over and her thighs were spread far apart, she managed to stay up. Mom was skiing! I beamed with pride. “Way to go, Mom!” I cheered. She smiled and gave a little wave. That’s when I noticed her starting to drift toward the right side of the wake. My eyes grew wide and my jaw dropped open.
The author as a teenager with her brave mom when they weren’t on skis.
Just as her ski tips hit the crest of our wake, a bowrider boat rocketed by, creating large waves. Mom grimaced and held tight to the rope handle, bracing her body for what was to come. Seconds later, she fell forward as both skis flew off, one of which smacked her square in the face. After quickly looping back around, my stomach knotted at the sight of Mom’s puffy, discolored cheek that was morphing into something uglier with each passing second. By the time we returned to the dock, her cheek was so swollen it looked like she had a tennis ball stuffed inside her mouth. Luckily, nothing was broken. She just required ice packs, pain meds and lots of cabin TLC. Mom never did ski again. But to her credit, she continued to let me do it. Now that I’m a mother, I can appreciate how difficult that must have been for her. For three solid decades, Mom was my spotter, my cheerleader, and my biggest fan, both on and off the water. I’ll forever be grateful for her waves, her smiles, and her enduring joy in keeping me in my sweet spot. Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks that if everyone could experience life at a cabin, the world would be a happier place.