Reflections of Sylvan Lake, then and now

When I was knee high to a grasshopper and lived out west with my dad and my brothers

When I was knee high to a grasshopper and lived out west with my dad and my brothers I thought the world pretty much ended on the north shore of Sylvan Lake and began on Lakeshore Drive.

In the place in my mind where reflections of the past flourish and where I can zoom in events, people and places to become larger than life, I remember.

I remember cresting the hill on Highway 11 which was, in those days, a gravel road, and suddenly in front of the cracked windshield of that old ‘49 Plymouth, Sylvan Lake appeared.

I was only a kid, born and raised West of the Fifth, but I just knew when I saw that lake it was going to be a good day.

And it always was.

And as I go back in time once again and carefully turn my own kaleidoscope of memories, I see it all again.

The old wooden pier, water so blue it hurts my eyes, lapping gently at its sides. Me prancing along quickly, the scorching sun-bleached boards hot on the soles of my bare feet. Me, totally, blissfully one with the sun and the day and all in life that is good and wonderful, licking a soft ice cream cone, creamy cool and delicious.

And even though I’m green as grass and haven’t lived through very many summers, I’m pretty sure I have found what the lake and the beach and the town, itself, has to offer.

Happiness!

The huge expanse of sandy beach must have been there then and probably even later, when my kids were kids. And, in fact, perhaps, my footprints and those of my children would all be there, if footprints in the sand were like memories, and didn’t disappear in the relentless passage of time.

But the sandy beach is gone now, as is the old wooden pier, Varsity Hall, the boat house, the roller skating rink and the old hotel.

It’s good to remember, to reflect and to just be there again, if only for a little while.

But, reality tells us ‘back in the day’ is over and it’s time to move on.

And that is not such a bad thing.

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to watch my grandchildren wrestle and run and tumble about on the huge expanse of green at the newly created park. And I stood in shivering amazement as my oldest grandson leapt into frigid waters off the cement wall.

“Watch, grandma,” he commanded. And I did! And when he hit the water with a splash, we both shivered.

The Sylvan Lake of today is a ‘memory keeper’ kind of place where you can sit on those chairs in the park and watch the kaleidoscope of color that is made up when all the colors of the sky and the sun and the water get all mixed up.

Or you can walk along the lake and watch the burnished gold of the setting sun turn the lake, itself, into a million shards of dancing lights.

The Sylvan Lake of today is no different than the Sylvan Lake back in the day.

It’s a memory keeper kind of place, always was, always will be.