Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The History of the Eyres at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is one of my favorite places in the whole world. It's synonymous with beauty and family and great memories - what could be better than that? 

I've been coming here every summer since I was eight. My dad bought my mom a tiny piece of land here as a wedding present (since she grew up nearby).  10 years later, at the tail end of our family's three-year stint in England (1976-79), my dad sent a builder $1000 and asked him to build what he could by way of a cabin on that piece of property.
That first summer after England we camped out in the resulting half-finished A-frame cabin. The only working plumbing was the bathtub so we had to do the dishes in there and used a porta potty for most of the summer (I'm not quite sure why the bathtub came before the toilet or kitchen sink...). A shower curtain was wrapped around the studs for the future bathroom to create a little privacy. We had plywood floors and an old garage-sale range that smelled awful whenever you used the oven (some mice had built a nest deep in its coils or something). Some nights, my sister and I got to sleep in the big unfinished upstairs all by ourselves while the rest of the family slept in one room downstairs. We felt very privileged and brave as we climbed up a ladder and into the upstairs window (there weren't any stairs yet).

Here are a bunch of the grandkids in front of the original A-frame cabin
Over the next 10 years, the A-frame became more comfortable – we finished the bathroom and got what seemed like the coolest spiral staircase to take us upstairs a little more safely (and cause plenty of casualties when its sharp corners met people's heads – it wasn't really positioned in the safest place...). My dad helped each of us build our own beds that folded out of the wall upstairs. All 6 kids slept on the fold-out beds in one room while my parents slept in the other room. 8 people, 2 bedrooms, one bathroom – somehow it worked fine.
The dangerously-placed spiral staircase

The fold-out beds my dad built with us - the upper ones are folded up - there were mats on the floor under the bottom bunk so we could sleep three-deep (my bunk was the upper left one)
 Each night, my dad told us wonderful made-up stories as we lay in our beds (often sweating up a storm – those July and August nights were HOT). Each morning, my mom had us all practicing violin, doing music theory flashcards and reading (often snuggled in blankets – those June mornings were COLD). We spent our days playing at the beach and catching chipmunks and putting on various little plays, and earning nickles by carrying up big rocks from the beach so we could have some semblance of landscaping. Once a week, we went to my grandma's house (about ½ hour away) and took care of the big garden there. We each had a crop to plant, weed and harvest. I always had the peas. Shawni had the beans. Josh did potatoes. Saydi did carrots. My grandma made sure we knew exactly how to do our jobs and we'd work SO hard in that garden and then enjoy the great fresh produce for the ½ half of the summer.

The cabin as it is today - with the addition
 Over time, we traded out the old stinky range and falling-apart cabinets for newer, nicer stuff, added a second bathroom, and put on an addition so there was a room for the girls there and the boys kept sleeping in the fold-out bunks upstairs. The crowning glory (for my dad) was when he was able to buy the lot next door and somehow cram a tennis court on it. There we all took tennis lessons from my dad, played basketball there and did lots of sleep-outs under the stars.
Dad's beloved tennis court - right up against the addition and the deck - but it fit!
Fast forward to today: Lots of things are the same – evening storytimes, morning reading, lots of unstructured time for imagination and fun, lots of love and learning. But everything's bigger. Now we've got 19 kids (ages 2 months to 13 years old) and 18 adults enjoying the old A-frame plus a lovely new 6-bedroom house nearby and my parents have built a writing-get-away up on the hill overlooking the lake where they stay most of the time.

For the last several years, my two married sisters and I plus some of our sisters-in-law have spent most of July here with our kids while our husbands come in and out based on their work schedules. We have 4 days during July that are protected official Eyre Reunion days and we've been lucky enough to have pretty much every family member make it pretty much every year. 

There's nothing like seeing our kids playing together, seeing my parents teach our kids some of the cherished things they taught us, watching different combinations of adults and children chat on the beach, cook and clean up together, play games and laugh late into the night, teach the next generation to water ski, build sand castles, play tennis, whatever.

My mom does “Grammie Camp” each year with kids five and up where she teaches them about their ancestors, does some art with them (she's a big art lover) and teaches them to work (they do weeding projects and that sort of thing - bringing back to the days when we used to work hard in Grandma's garden).
My dad does “Grandfather's Secrets” with the kids where they memorize great quotes and learn principles of living well in fun ways. We all help parent each others kids and love cooking together and talking about all sorts of stuff late into the night. There are certainly issues around who's doing more than their fair share of grocery shopping or clean up and the kids have their little spats (although it's pretty amazing how well everyone does get along). Sometimes there's a lot of mess and noise and tensions start to run high.

But life at the lake is good. Very very good. And we all feel so amazingly blessed to have this place full of memories and love and fun that we can come to every year and now share with our children.
Here's my dad sharing some of his "secrets" - the kids can't get enough of him

Here's my mom with the Grammie Camp kids


atec said...

Thanks for giving the history....lots of stuff I didn't know. It's nice to hear how hard you and your parents worked for that place.

Josh said...

Awesome, Sar. Just wanted to remind you to change your settings so that those of us that read blog readers get more than just the first paragraph. Thanks!

Holly said...

What a wonderful legacy that you've grown up with and all committed to pass on to your children. I love it!!! Found you through Shawni and have added you to my favorites!!
Enjoy the rest of your time there!!

Patty Ann said...

Oh I love it! We have our own little house in the woods now, I can't tell you how much I enjoy it, and I can't wait for the grandkids to get big enough to come to grammys! I love the history and how your family has made this such a part of it.

Corrie said...

oh wow, so much history and I bet your parents just treasure the time together with their huge family too!

all those memories.....


Eyrealm said...

What a great history of our time at Bear lake! There are so many things that I had forgotten. How great to have it posted forever! Thanks so much!

Brianna said...

What awesome memories for your family! I have an aunt and uncle that have a summer home at bear lake and I have been a few is very beautiful there! I hope to return someday.

Accalia said...

I've never commented on your blog, but I do read it occasionally. I can't quite figure out precisely what I liked so much about this post, but I wanted to let you know that I loved it. Thanks for sharing your family traditions!


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