Clear Lake, Iowa circa late 90s

nsfw-logoWe were the only family in my quintessentially Minnesota neighborhood to drive south to the lake cabin. I used to always say “Lake Cabin” but it’s not really a cabin. It’s a house on a lake in the downtown of a small town.

I remember being slightly envious at a young age of my peers who were zipping around on speed boats in secluded northern Minnesota wooded wilderness. But now? Forget it. I’d rather walk 3 minutes into town, grab a coffee and a newspaper, sit down in the small park and listen to the church choir.

By the way, what other small town in Iowa has a Walk Score of over 70?

lakeClear Lake has a population of around 10,000. In the winter, it feels like 1,000. In the summer, it feels like 100,000. Everyone collapses on downtown and the main City Beach. And, during the 4th of July, it felt like  1 million (especially as the main street closed off for the carnival).

The beauty of it all growing up was that there was this small town that felt like a big city, if only for a week or two a year. My brothers and I (and cousins) were right in the middle of it. There was this freedom of being mobile: everything that I wanted to do was happening within 3 blocks! For a pre-teen, that’s liberty!

What’s the opposite of helicopter parents? My parents basically took the path of “let boys be boys.” We took advantage of this.  Trust a 9, 10 and 12 year old with a jet ski that could top 60 mph or an Uncle’s boat with 135 horsepower? My parents had no problem with it! Buy kids fireworks? Also- not a problem (well, our dad didn’t care too much). And we even entered adulthood with very few scars to show for it all.

Here’s my nostalgic memory: we had a small grass yard in front of City Beach and when the time came for fireworks, our yard was the front row (and we got first dibs on good spots). I still remember, being at that age of wonder, looking up at the dark night sky. Colors exploding. Ears popping. Seeing the shades of fireworks illuminate the faces of my family and friends as we all looked up in awe.

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Also – Happy Birthday Mom! I love you.

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