A Quiet Moment by a Lake with My Father by (3 Stories)

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My well-meaning father, a shoe department manager at J. C. Penney, with no experience in camping, borrowed camping equipment in the early 1950s and loaded my mother, my two sisters and I into our old black Chevrolet and drove us from Inglewood, California to Lake Tahoe. Arriving late at night we plopped sleeping bags down in the dark and fell asleep under the stars. We awoke with a start at dawn to cold water lapping at out heads. We had slept, head down, at a very slight incline on the beach far closer to the water than we knew, but Mother cooked eggs over a camp stove while we shivered and picked up smooth pieces of glass from the sand. I remember sitting beside my father as he explained how the green and blue glass had become smooth in the lake bed over a long time. And how life is like that, how our characters are smoothed and made beautiful by the ebb and flow of the good things and the difficult things we face in life. That intimate moment–and the quiet heads up about what life would be like–has stayed with me for more than 70 years. Four decades later I bought a hand-made green sea-glass bracelet in Jamaica because it instantly brought that sweet moment back to me. No, we never went camping again, but what a treasure that memory is.

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I have played with fabric since I learned at age 8 to sew on my mother's Singer Featherweight, and I have written poems and memories for my own pleasure, as well some pieces for the local newspapers and some magazines. I am very interested in Family History-- tracking my father's Norwegian family tree. I really enjoy the Retrospect site an Sun Magazine as well.

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, well written


  1. What amazing wisdom to pass on to a child…and to an adult like me. It gives the inevitable ups and downs in life a rationale and important roll in shaping who we are. Thank you for sharing that.

  2. Marian says:

    I just love the metaphor your father used, with the sea glass. How beautiful and wise. Hope to read more stories from you in the future on Retrospect.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Have to agree that was a wonderful metaphor, and a beautiful, hopeful one describing the wearing and polishing of a life. And Tahoe is spectacular—a great memory to carry with you all these years. I will think of this when I see beach glass now.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Such a beautiful and poignant story. I, too, love the metaphor he used to tell you and your sisters of the water wearing smooth the sea glass, just like life and you buying yourself the bracelet to bring that perfect family moment.

  5. Thanx Babette for this beautifully written and poignant story and sweet memory of your father and what he told you on that cold beach morning, bless him.

    Looking forward to reading more of your stories on Retro!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Beautiful memory. I love how your father turned what could have been a bad memory or joke (waking up cold and damp) into an amazing metaphor about aging as sea glass.

  7. Suzy says:

    This is a wonderful story! That camping trip could have turned out badly if you had been just a little closer to the water, or had slid downhill a little more in your sleep. But it turned out to be a wonderful memory, and I love your father’s simile about how the sea glass is like life. Glad you bought that bracelet in Jamaica – if you still have it, you could take a photo of it and add that to your story.

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    Babette, how charming that your father found his teaching moment in nature, sharing the truth that life’s wear and tear can reward us with beauty over time.

    Wow-how adventurous your father was! To drive seven hours and have no camping experience to boot. Tahoe must have been a dream. Thank you for the vivid images. I will remember this.

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    Much is written about family traditions, but so many sweet memories are one-offs!

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