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.