Clara and Julius spent their retirement years on the lake.  Dr. Mitchell, Clara’s father built the small house around 1920.  The little piece of paradise was in the family for over a hundred years.  Philip remembers visiting his grandparents every other summer.  Enjoying swimming, neighborhood friends and especially orange juice.

Orange juice was our primary source for thirst quenching.  Sadly the trees had been neglected for years.  Tangerines, lemons, avocados, and grapefruits still grew with careless ease even with few leaves and rodent damage.  Florida was my first introduction to avocados where they grow to the size of small footballs.  The locals call them “pears”.

Our lake front was overgrown.  We had no beach so many hours were spent pulling the grass in ankle deep water all hunched over.  Yet we kept cooler there in the lake.  As we pulled we could watch the boats, fisherman, and water birds.  A few bald eagles nested nearby.  Many types of water birds, even sandhill cranes grazed in the front yard.  Once a friend in a float plane landed at our beach!

March brought the rest of the family.  Only then did I realize this wasn’t my home.  Decisions were not mine.  Beautiful flowers and trees were chopped down by those who did own the house.  Items in the house were changed.  I was just a visitor.

During our year at Lake Lotela a stray cat adopted us.  She was very efficient eliminating our rat population for some tasty treats from us.  The down side, she had 17 kittens before we could catch her.  With the help of a local radio station we were able to find homes for all before we left.

Laundry was done in town at the laundromat.  Ours was partially out-of- doors, easy access to your car, and a good place to meet people.  The baskets of wet clothes were hung in the sun.  They would dry almost before you could get them on the line.  One time a basket was left on the ground while the clothes were drying.  A black widow spider greeted me when I came to take down the clothes.  A basket was never left outside again.

Another unwanted critter greeted me one morning in the bath tub.  A scorpion had crawled up the drain and was corralled by the tub. Thank goodness.

After all the outside chores we would go down to the lake with our large tractor inner tubes and float in the warm “bath” water and relax.  Our indoor entertainment was the radio.  We had no TV.  While sitting on the front porch, looking at the lake, writing lesson plans we heard the news from the seventies.  Nixon, Watergate and Viet Nam…

At the end of the school year we were to paint the house.  Our rent for staying in the house.  Have you ever scraped paint in hot humid Florida?  It seemed the chore would last forever.

The die was cast, back to the midwest and all it’s glorious seasons.