Let The Lake Sun Shine Upon You
Erik Robertson was feeling sentimental, nostalgic and sad as he approached the familiar Sun Rise Lake. It had been a couple of years since he had been here on summer vacation and he smiled as he drove through the small village with the Country Store and other small shops.
He continued the car along Lake Shore Road and he pulled to a stop in front of a large older two story cottage where he and his family had stayed with the Aldrich family on joint vacations for several years.
It felt strange to see some other family in the cottage now but life went on and Erik let out a sigh as he continued along the road. The lake looked calm, peaceful and serine as always.
Erik turned onto the Route 99A extension which ran along the far side of the lake, passing the Christian Youth Camp, the public beach, the cottages where the drive in movie theater once stood and, finally, he approached The Lakeside Motel still in business nearly seventy years after it first opened. It was weather beaten and sagged by age but was still hanging on despite the competition from the Sun Rise Lake Inn and the newer and larger Super 8 Motel a few miles down the road.
'Let the lake sun shine upon you' read the old logo atop the roadside Lakeside Motel sign.
Erik pulled into the motel's parking lot and parked in front of the office section which was in the center of the structure with two wings of motel rooms on either side.
The lot was noticeably full but it was the middle of summer and Erik realized he shouldn't be all that surprised. Still, there was something sad about the motel with its faded paint, aged wood siding, outdated screen doors, and ancient appearance. The motel had definitely seen better days but Erik was glad to have a place to stay.
He climbed out of her car and he sucked in the breeze blowing off the lake beyond the motel, protected by trees and a few other cottages between it and the water's edge. The red "no vacancy" light shined in the lobby window and Erik was glad that he had reserved a room months ago.
He stepped into the comfortable lobby thanks to the air conditioning and he closed the door behind him to keep the summer heat out.
The lobby was small with a cluttered feel to it. An overstuffed old couch was on the far wall and a couple of chairs were against the other wall. Several photos of the motel in its heyday of the 1950s and 60s hung on the wall along with a large painting of the lake. There was a counter with office equipment behind it and a door that led to an apartment behind the lobby.
A bell was on the counter with a sign that read 'Ring for Service.' Erik gently placed his finger tip on the bell top and pushed, allowing the 'ding' to echo through the room. A moment later, the door to the adjoining living quarters opened and a man around Erik's age stepped into the office area.
"Hello," he said pleasantly. "Do you have a reservation?"
"Yes," Erik answered. "Under Robertson."
The guy was tall and in pretty good physical shape. His brown hair was streaked with gray at the temples. He was wearing Bermuda shorts and a Boston Red Sox tee-shirt with flip flops. He flipped opened the register book and flipped through some pages.
"The computer age hasn't arrived yet?" Erik asked with a grin.
"We like to keep it old fashioned here," the guy deadpanned.
Erik glanced around the premises while the proprietor looked for his name.
"Here we go," the guy said. "Room 16." He reached into a box and handed Erik a key on a tag. "Same credit card number?"
"Yes," Erik confirmed.
The guy made a note on his check in card and slid it across the counter. "Just fill out the car information," he said. "There's a coke machine on the other side of Unit 1. There's a small convenience store a mile or so down the road."
"I used to rent a cottage here for years," Erik replied, slipping the completed information card back to him. "I'm familiar."
"Plainville, Connecticut," the guy said, noting Erik's home address. "Well, Welcome back to the lake."
"I'm Jimmy Mac," the man replied. "I'm usually around and if I'm not my summer assistant Karen can help with whatever you need."
"Great," Erik said. "It's nice to be here."
He took the key to Room 16 and left the lobby, moving his car as close to Room 16 as he could, digging out his luggage from the back seat, and heading for the room.
Erik was startled to hear his name being called. Sure, he had been to the lake for eight seasons running, but the last time was three years ago and who was going to remember him from one week visits over the course of eight summers?
He turned and he was stunned to see Zeeba Aldrich of all people standing in the doorway of Room 19, wearing some sort of summer smock over a one piece bathing suit.
Here's the backstory: Erik worked with Zeeba's husband Jim for several years at Cranson, Branigan, and Norton Investments and the two families became friendly, beginning with rotating backyard picnics, movie outings, emergency babysitting stints and finally yearly joint family vacations at Sun Rise Lake.
Jim was the one who found the cottage and he rented it the same week every summer, inviting the Robertsons along to share in the togetherness, taking advantage of shared child watching, built in kid playmates, and the mix of toys, gear, food and resources. The two families could peel off into mixed groups or do things separately as their own family units.
Luckily, the Aldrichs and Robertson families were compatible. Erik and his wife Julie were a few years older than Jim and Zeeba and their oldest - Evan - was older than the other kids, but the Robertson's daughter Ellen was the same age as Jim and Zeeba's oldest Armin and Dana and Reza weren't that far behind so it all worked out.
The eight years of Sun Rise Lake vacations together made for some great memories and lasting friendships.
But when Jim left the agency for a rival, the together vacations ended. Jim and Zeeba eventually divorced and not long after that Julie told Erik that she had become reacquainted with an old high school boyfriend and she wanted to give that a shot.
Erik moved out of the house - and out of Wethersfield where the two families lived - to Plainville and he lost contact with the Aldrich family as his kids got older.
And now here was Zeeba Aldrich staring at him with a wide grin on her face.
"Zeeba," Erik said, not quite believing it was her. "What are you doing here?"
She grinned as she moved toward him, embracing him with a hug. "It's vacation week," she reminded him. "That's why you're here, right?"
He blushed. "I was feeling kind of sentimentally nostalgic and lonely," he admitted as he broke the embrace.
"Jim took the kids to Newport this year for Vacation Week," Zeeba explained. "I had nothing to do with myself and decided on a whim to come back here. You're the last person I expected to see though."
He let out a sigh. "Evan is in the Marines and Ellen is on a college summer abroad thing."
"Wow," she said. "How time flies."
"How are your three?"
"Armin is at grad school at UCONN, Dana is at Quinnipiac, and Resa is about to start at Central Connecticut."
"They're as smart as their mother."
Zeeba smiled. "So, you're the lonely and forgotten divorced Dad who found his way back to happier times in a happier place?"
"I guess I was feeling sorry for myself," he admitted.
"Well, it's wonderful to see you!" Zeeba beamed. "You look great."
"I'm a middle aged divorced sad sack," he sighed.
"Who's on vacation," she pointed out. "And now it looks like you're on vacation with me!"
"Seems strange that it's just the two of us instead of the accustomed nine."
"Life goes on," Zeeba noted. "Which room are you in?"
"I"ll meet you at the beach. Just follow the path by the coke machine."
There was no point in arguing, of course. Why wouldn't they spend time together? There were longtime friends who hadn't seen each other in a while.
Erik watched Zeeba walk toward the path, amused at how small the world was after all. They lived two towns apart and never saw each other anymore. Now, a hundred miles away from home, they were three rooms apart at the Sun Rise Lake Motel.
Erik glanced at the motel sign again: Let the Lake Sun Shine Upon You.
Maybe the sun finally was shining upon him again after a rough few years.