Waist deep I still see Echo Lake’s gravelly, sandy bottom through sunlit ripples. Oh, there’s a fish! A perch? Gorgeous, graceful.  Squeamish, I step aside and wade deeper before plunging into the darker waters where weeds cover the bottom. Breasts, heart, lungs slowly adjust to the brisk chill, rejuvenated, exhilarated. I swim two long laps between bouys, flipping several times to float, watch clouds, do backstroke. After seven invigorating minutes I stagger ashore, light-headed, needing to lay down or at least sit and breathe deep. It’s my second and last brief swim of this week in Vermont.

But every day Mom gets a quick car (or golf cart) ride across the road, down the lane to the beach. Clad in her black with white dots, skirted swimsuit, she pushes her walker knee-deep into the lake, sits on it, removes flip-flops, dons black swim-cap, and lowers her bulky, achy body gingerly onto one, then two knees. Head down she glides freely into her 80+ years practiced crawl stroke. Like me she takes breaks to float. Unlike me she paces herself, rather than hurrying with the crawl, side & backstroke. A good half-hour later she’s back on the walker seat. Arthritic toes stretch easier now under flip-flop straps. Sighs and puffs for breath resume only as she lumbers up the cottage steps stopping to ask, “Have you talked with Duff & Mary since they left Maryland?

It’s been a wonderful summer week, culmination of sister Joyce’s two months in the U.S. Sunday she flies back to Guinea, West Africa. She & Mom drove to Greenbelt last Friday and up to Bellows Falls VT on Sathurday where they met Joyce’s daughter Clara on Amtrak’s Vermonter. I came up Sunday on the same train from New Carrollton. This Plymouth Camp State Park cottage was comfortable for us four women. Mom & I played Scrabble every day. Joyce & Clara shopped, explored, canoed and stayed up late catching up as mother & daughter. On Wednesday Clara took the train back to husband Stephen & her job in Manhattan.

It’s Friday now, our last day. Yesterday sister Nancy & her husband Marv came from their home in New Hampshire. Later last night my son Christopher (aka Duff) & his fiancee Mary Susan Phelps arrived in the area on their way to visit Roorda family in New Hampshire. The seven of us immensely enjoyed six hours together at the cottage: pancake breakfast, photo albums, lots of happy talk, a mile round-trip hike to Echo Lake Vista, a swim for Nancy & Mom, buffet lunch, and a canoe ride for Mom with Duff & Mary.

We missed spouses and children, but will treasure the memories, alive in our bodies as well as in photos for years to come.

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