Return to Kerby Lodge in Water Dance
A Lake Michigan Lodge Story
“Better lake than never!”
KERBY LODGE GUEST BOOK
“Merci beaucoup, Señor,” I said to Luke.
Luke set a warm cup of Swiss chocolate on the desk in our hotel room where I was sitting, then went to lie down on the bed. I heard him plumping the downy pillows to lean against. Without turning to look, I pictured his long, tanned legs stretched out on the luxury linens.
“That’s Monsieur to you Madame, Danke Schön,” he said.
One of the many things I had come to love about my husband was his sense of humor. He may not always laugh at my corny jokes (though mostly he did) but I didn’t have to explain myself. It was such a relief.
Luke, I knew, wanted the two of us to share the setting sun one last time, as it sank behind the spectacular Matterhorn. We’d be leaving for home in the morning.
After an exhilarating day of hiking along alpine lakes and wildflowers, I fell into our cool room late this afternoon and let the deep bathtub soak away all the aches in my muscles. Luke called the dining room and asked for our dinner to be sent up.
Now, I was so relaxed, I could barely lift a pen to achieve my last task of the day—of the trip—writing a promised postcard to Aunt June in Florida.
For three glorious July weeks, we had been touring the northern region of Spain, France, and now Switzerland, by way of Austria. Several countries, and many languages. This deferred honeymoon had been one magical day after the next, and well worth the eleven month wait.
“Spain was lovely,” I said, reading out loud as I wrote. “The Bay of Biscay had islands that resembled castles. Luke and I explored caves, and medieval Spanish villages.”
“You’re missing the sunset,” Luke said.
“We got lucky in the Provence region of France,” I continued, “the lavender fields were in full bloom, filling the air with a delightful parfumé.”
“How big is that postcard?”
“You know,” Luke said, “you’ll be back in a few days and you can call your aunt.”
“I’ll do that too,” I countered, and continued writing.
“Luke and I walked the cobbled streets of Old Town in Saint-Tropez,” I said as I wrote, “and found a delicious patisserie.”
“It’s just a little card, not a journal,” he said.
I had tried to write a journal of our trip. But it was too much repetition.
Breakfast in France, croissants and marmalade.
Breakfast in Spain, churros and chocolate.
Breakfast in Switzerland, muesli and hard cheese.
Eventually, I decided this particular history need not be recorded—my snug waistband was document enough. I was a walking exhibit, titled: American Devours Europe.
That’s the trouble with historical records—if you have time to do it, you record the mundane. And when something exciting is happening, there’s no time.
I always wished my parents kept a journal, so I could have some insight and historical reference as I tried to fill their larger-than-life shoes, running their beloved Kerby Lodge on Lake Michigan. But they would have been too busy during the peak seasons and there was nothing to write about during the shoulder seasons and frigid winters.
Still, I longed to see their handwriting, and hear about their guests.
I was a hypocrite. I couldn’t be faithful to a diary, even while on vacation. I had wanted to stay in the moment with Luke, instead. I’ve spent too many years living in the past. Mourning the loss of my parents.
But at least I could keep my word, and write one little postcard, couldn’t I?
As I gazed out the window at the tiny Swiss village of Zermatt, I smiled to see lights coming on, twinkling throughout the town and dotting the hillside. Somewhere on the hill were climbers, bravely attempting to ascend the mighty Matterhorn. And in the village, a small cemetery held the graves and memorials to fallen climbers—dating back to the mid-1800s. Luke and I were small specks in the timeline of the world.
Yet here we were. Looking out at the highest mountains in Europe, church spires rising between us and the hills.
“Here, let me help you with that,” Luke said, coming over behind me where I sat at the desk. He first kissed my neck, and then the side of my face—which was warmed by the desk lamp. When he turned the little lamp off, the setting sun cast us both in a golden glow.
“Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here,” he said, softly into my ear.
“You wish they were here?” I turned to smile up at Luke, who was no longer looking at the Matterhorn, but at me. As if I were infinitely more mesmerizing than this cathedral-like glacier, frosted with snow and now deep in shadows.
“No,” Luke said, gently setting the pen down and taking my hand, which he then used to pull me towards the deep bank of pillows.
“I wish you were here.”
A day later, sleeping against the cold airplane window, I dreamed of those thick downy pillows. Like a puppet on a string, my head now lolled over onto an anemic travel ring propped around my neck.
It could barely support my head and cascade of unruly red waves. But at least it absorbed the thin stream of drool traveling from my open mouth.
After landing, I’d pop this pillow in the nearest bin.
It had served bravely overseas—during several flights, countless train rides, and one tour of duty on an Alpen bus that piped in the Sound of Music, while taking us to the gazebo where Liesl and Rolf had danced to I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen.
Removing my eye mask, I could see that Luke was putting his seat upright, and gathering his headphones and newspaper into his backpack. We were getting ready to land in the U.S., I realized, and forced myself to wake up.
It was late here at home—the middle of the night. As we descended, I opened the window shade and looked at the barren roads and sleepy neighborhoods.
Minutes later, taxiing to a gate, the ding dinging of phones could be heard throughout the cabin as they reconnected with the network—my own included. People around me began calling loved ones to say they had arrived. Others opened their phones and sent texts. Still others scrolled through their email, and checked the weather.
In my own backpack, my phone was dinging as it loaded three weeks’ worth of unread messages. On the first night of our trip, Luke had shoved both our phones to the bottom of our mesh laundry bag. We only fished them out as we packed to come home.
Before we left I gave our itinerary to our college intern, Hollis Fanning, and my trusted friend Jennifer, who regularly came to the lodge to manage her repurposed furniture store located in the lodge’s former carriage house.
“Call our hotel for any reason,” I said, and they agreed.
Since I hadn’t heard a peep, I assumed all was well at Kerby Lodge. But the dinging texts from Hollis now told a different, alarming story. My gasps cut through the white noise of the idling airplane, and Luke looked over at me as I stared at my phone.
“What is it?” he said, “is everyone okay?”
“I think so,” I managed to say.
“Is it the lodge? What’s going on?” he asked.
I couldn’t speak for a moment. Finally, I looked over at Luke.
“There was a fire…” I said.
“A fire!” he said in alarm.
“And a flood…” I continued, looking up at his shocked face.
Luke was mute, staring at me with his mouth open.
“And an accident,” I said.
Luke held his hand out for my phone, so he could read the messages himself.
Now trembling, I was glad to have a husband by my side who would be strong and comforting, and help me through the tragedies that had befallen my lodge while I was away.
“All that’s missing is the plague of locusts,” Luke said.
Water Dance will be published in January of 2020. Available for preorder on Amazon soon!