Sharing old memories and making new ones

It is no secret to most who regularly read my column that my family has been celebrating holidays at Compass Lake, Florida for a long, long time.   This extended 4th of July holiday is no exception.  
The lake house and a rented condo are packed with my daughters and their families, my nephew and his fiancé, my mother, Mary Lou and myself.
After spending over 50 Independence Days at the “Water House” as my oldest grandchild, Henry, used to call it, some might think it gets old doing the same thing year after year. While we do have an awfully lot of traditions around holidays at the lake, there are always new things to celebrate each year.
It is almost a rite of passage as each grandchild learns to swim and then conquers their fear by jumping off the high dive on the upper deck.  It still makes my heart flutter a bit on the rare occasions when I “jump off the top” as we call it, but imagine how much higher it must seem to someone less than half my height.
Henry and Laura, my two oldest grandchildren, are literally fish in the water now.  They play in the lake for hours on end, interrupted only by lunch and snacks.   They can barely keep their eyes open at the end of the day. I know how they feel.
We have all been here for two days and have already had a low county boil on Saturday evening and grilled beef tenderloins on Sunday. Breakfast has been eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese grits and biscuits or cinnamon rolls.
Still to come are grilled shrimp, hot dogs and hamburgers, ribs, pancakes and homemade ice cream.  Family gatherings often focus around food, and our family is no different.  
Laura had her first tomato and bacon sandwich today and pronounced it the best sandwich she had ever had, not an insignificant statement from a picky eater.  
Will had three helpings of cheese grits and eggs before asking for dessert since he finished everything on his plate. We should not have been surprised since desserts and snacks are a long time tradition at Compass Lake.  
We participated in the annual boat parade, promising to decorate better next year.   Four generations on a boat at dusk waved to people on their docks as we passed by.  Surely these are memories we will keep forever.
Will washed his hair in the lake for the first time.    He jumped off the dock dozens of times once he overcame that initial fear. Next year, I expect to see all three grandchildren going off the high dive at the same time.  Will’s fear of the water is almost completely gone now, making life a bit easier for his parents and grandparents.
Henry suggested it was time for the watermelon cutting.   Everyone sat on the edge of the dock with their feet dangling down while they spit the seeds into the water.  
About that time, we spotted an eagle slowly circling high above the lake. He was visible for ten minutes as he just slowly glided and circled, making his way down the lake. How unexpected that sight was, particularly for a 4th of July holiday.  
We shared memories with my nephew, Stephen, of his own visits to the lake with his parents over the years.   His fiancé, Mandi, was such a sport to listen to the endless family tales.   It is pretty special to have my nephew visit, and even more so to have Mandi with him to start making her own memories of this special place.  
Each year it is the same and it is different.  We celebrate our country’s independence together with dozens of other families around the lake by shooting fireworks off the docks.   I have seen a lot of firework displays in my life, but this one remains my favorite.
Sometimes our blessings are just too amazing to count.   I will just say that I am proud to be an American, and blessed beyond measure to share this holiday with so many of my family.  I love all the old memories of this particular holiday at Compass Lake.  But I love the new memories created over these few days while together with my family even more.
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Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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