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Winning Essay by Jamie Riedle

"What Lake Springfield Means to Me"

As I watch the fireworks explode their yellow and blue colors into the night sky, during the annual "Rock the Dock" extravaganza, I cannot help but notice the people around me. As I admire the disappearing lights from above, I see how the boats are silently bobbing up and down in the water. I see and hear the kids running on the lawn, and I can hear the muffled small talk of the adults. All the while hearing the big booms as the fireworks explode and echo off the trees; this what Lake Springfield means to me. It is the calm and familiar atmosphere that makes me feel safe and secure. When I think of Lake Springfield I think of home.

Every year I go to my Aunt's and we watch the fireworks from her backyard. Family and friends are littered throughout the lawn sitting in lawn chairs or on blankets. Their faces glow with the color of the fireworks, and everyone is oohing and aahing. My little cousins laugh with excitement, while the adults watch with a content face. The gathering is the same every year, with the same people, food, and laughs. It is something I look forward to and something my family looks forward to every year.

I have grown up in Springfield and have been on the lake plenty of times. When I think of home I think of the street I grew up on, my school, the cool places to go around town, and the lake. All of those things have created memories for me that I have kept with me for the past eighteen years. I am proud to say I am from Springfield, Illinois. Some people think this place is too small and they cannot wait to leave. But to me it is home. Every time I pass over the dam and go into town I see the smokestacks. The familiar puffs of smoke exuding from the chimneys remind me of Springfield. As I cross the dam and I see the lake, it seems all too familiar. However, once I go off to college I will lose that familiarity. Once I leave I will miss the everyday reminders of home, especially the lake.

Winning Essay by Haley Jackson

What Lake Springfield Means to Me

Every June my family comes together to have a reunion. Different pigments of skin, different incomes, five generations- all gathered at Lake Springfield for impeccable food and some much needed catching up. I look at the lake. The water level seems higher than it was last year. Children shyly greet one another but become quickly acquainted. Soon they are darting between cousins and uncles, chasing one another long after they have run out of breath. Teenagers sit and discuss the endless possibilities of their future, and their exciting plans for the weekend. Dads are always standing around the grill, debating sports and sipping the adult beverages hiding in their koozies as if their life depended on it. Mothers follow around their toddlers frantically, and expecting mothers rub their big bellies and smile at what is to become. Grandparents have a table all to themselves, gathered around the old family coffee maker. They have cup after cup of black coffee as dark as the summer mud. The grandparents spend the entire time flipping through numerous photo albums. Pages upon pages of baby pictures of people who are now grown and have babies of their own. Hundreds of family portraits displaying families as they once were before they changed, just as the seasons have.

After a while everyone is called together to eat. The options for food are endless. Homemade beef and noodles, baked beans, and did someone bring KFC? Mothers begin to exercise the word 'no' as the pleading for cookies before dinner grows louder through the line. Everyone sits and eats one plate, followed by another, and one more against your will. Once everyone is through gorging themselves on food, the entire scene begins to calm down. Mostly everyone is sitting and chatting, except the kids, who are busy trying to catch tadpoles in hopes they can watch them transform.

I wander off from the rest of the people and I stand on a boat dock. I slip my shoe off and dip a toe in the water. It feels strangely warm, like bath water. The wind blows. Hard. I feel a water droplet from the lake touch my sun kissed skin. Summer is halfway gone and I am growing older. Soon, I will be one of the adults at the reunion. The older adults that I know and love will grow older and frail and will eventually stop attending. All of these thoughts crowd my mind and my anxiety heightens. Another droplet hits me, it is bigger this time. I turn and look toward the pavilion and I see my entire family gathered for our annual photo. Five generations huddled together like we have done for years and will do for years to come. I look at water again, astounded by the changing of the lake through the years. I look back at my family, just as amazed.

 

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