November 5th, 2011

love a nerd

LJ Idol 8:3 - Coprolite

It's the middle of a warm summer night at the lake, and I wake up to the sound of my mother's voice in my ear.

"Corrie?" she whispers. "I have to go see Maggie. Do you need to go with me?"

And the two of us would pad down the stairs, out the front door of the lake cabin, and walk out to the back forty to see Maggie.

Now I know that at this point, you must be wondering exactly what kind of mother I have, exactly, that wakes up her child in the middle of the night to visit someone at two in the morning. Rest assured, it isn't as bad as it seems.

Our family has had a cabin at Loon Lake for nearly forty years. The best memories that I have of my childhood take place at the lake...learning to swim, tubing with my cousins, the many failed attempts at water-skiing, walking to the beach, going down the path to fill up one of the big Igloo coolers with water from the pump, taking baths in a big metal tub in the kitchen because there was no running water at first. And then when there was running water, we couldn't drink it. And we would wheel the Igloo back in the Little Red Wagon, then carry it into the cabin.

And we had no indoor plumbing, either.

Out in the back forty at the lake, we had an outhouse. First it was just a little shack (as you'd expect) made out of wood with scrap pieces of siding stuck to it. Obviously designed by a man, it was nothing if not utilitarian and straight-forward.

One summer when I was about seven or eight, my Aunt Debbie and her ex-husband, Uncle Brent, built a new outhouse. And this one was perfect. It looked a little Victorian cottage with gingerbread trim on the gabled roof, a cute little porch painted white, windows with faux shutters, painted in Jordan almond colors. It was adorable.

I remember us pulling up one summer day in the van to see my cousin Sherry merrily jumping around as they finished up their painting and the blue trim on the shutters was completed. "The new outhouse is ready! The new outhouse is ready!" she chanted happily.

I can honestly say that we, the Schmidts on Lot 75 on Lakeshore Road had the prettiest, most perfect outhouse in all of Loon Lake.

And we were also, without a doubt, the only family that had a retired department store mannequin posing on the front porch of our outhouse (hell, we were the only summer people with a PORCH on the OUTHOUSE, no less!) dressed in Grandma's fabulous 1970's clothes. We named her Maggie.

Maggie, with one arm bent and a wrist angled dramatically, modeled a brown polyester pantsuit with what looked like big white footprints on the fabric. She'd wear blouses, sweaters, bell bottoms, dresses, but never any shoes. I never thought to ask exactly why Maggie was there, where we got her, why we named her Maggie, but it was just part of life as I knew it.

So instead of just going to the outhouse in the middle of the night, we'd go out and visit Maggie. She never judged, she just stood there on the porch, blissfully unaware that her clothes were twenty years out of date, not caring how long you took or how bad the smell was. Maggie didn't care if you read the Nickel Nik in there or took a few minutes to read the framed art hanging on the outhouse walls. (My favorite, the picture of a bathroom with graffiti all over it, my dad's writing with an arrow pointing behind the toilet with the caption "deposit DEAD fish here!")

A few years later, pulling the wagon to the pump became unnecessary, and we got indoor plumbing. A bathroom was put in off of the kitchen, with a window that looked out onto the lake. The bathroom trips in the middle of the night were far less fun, but definitely took about ten minutes off your toilet time.

Whenever people would come visit us at the lake - whether it was my Uncle Bob and Aunt Ko (later Aunt Judy), Mike Gorman on his motorcycle, years later my ex-husband and his mother, we'd tell them to turn off on Larson Beach Rd, cross the bridge, then continue on until you got to Lakeshore Rd. We're at Lot 75. If you can't find us, look for the outhouse, and look for Maggie.

"Who's Maggie?" would usually be the question.

"You'll find out soon enough," was usually the reply.

During the winter of 2004, Loon Lake was hit with a nasty storm that toppled trees, left residents without power, and sadly enough, both our beautiful little Victorian outhouse and Maggie, her clothes now thirty-five years out of date, fell victim to a falling tree. I saw it on the six o'clock news, but our neighbor may have called Dad or Grandpa to let him know of Maggie's sad demise.

When I auditioned for Jeopardy! in the fall of 2005, my parents and I decided to make a detour to visit Grandma Simpson in Cathlamet. In a house on the main drag of Longview, two perfectly dressed blonde mannequins, their hands to their faces, stare out a big picture window in aloof disbelief.

The spirit of Maggie is alive and well.

And that makes me very happy indeed.
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