Living on the lake has always been coupled with a driving desire to leave, partly because we know we will always return. Another reason lies in the fact that a lot of what happens at our house and yard requires constant attention and upkeep. It’s rare that a day at the lake is spent resting on the dock reading a good book between naps and a long swim. One of those things might happen after a day of chores. So I am always thinking about the next trip.


Photo by Robert Forlini

As an Italian, Rob has a difficult time getting in the car and actually driving away. The unspoken fear is, “Who will watch the house?” Growing up in a close-knit compound where three neighboring homes were occupied by blood relatives, there was always someone around to keep an eye on things. The only people around us are an odd collection of neighbors we refer to as “The crazy house,” “The troglodyte,” “Buzz bomb,” “The drug addicts,” and “Scary.” Not exactly a rousing recommendation. But after the trip has been planned and the light timers are set, the wooden pole is slipped into the sliding glass door and the alarm is turned on we barrel away on an adventure accompanied by any number of talismans.Image

These trinkets hold deep and guarded powers over our lives except they probably only hold the power we have assigned to them. There’s Gobo the little Italian hunchback who hangs from the car’s rearview mirror. If you rub his hump he wards off the evil eye and brings you good luck. I’m not sure what evil spirits await us on our journeys but it’s good to know we have that covered before even pull out of the driveway.

Inside our pockets we have silver Chinese coins that have pictures of the animal of our birth year. I was born in the Year of the Dog and I have two of them. I lost the first one and Rob diligently replaced it. The other day I pulled out a pair of shorts for the arrival of warm weather and the original dog coin fell out of the pocket.

“That’s a good omen,” Rob said.

The next day we discovered a long lost blown glass fruit bowl we had decided a visiting handy man had stolen. For years we pulled up the example of the missing fruit bowl as another indication for why you just can’t trust people and you can never have enough safeguards. When we found the fruit bowl buried under platters in the back of a high cabinet we changed our tune.

Rob declared, “When you found that coin your luck changed. Maybe now you’ll find your lost watch!”


My Chinese zodiac symbol is earth dog. It is associated with the turn of each of the four seasons. It governs the spleen, stomach, mouth and muscles. Its negative emotion is anxiety and its positive emotion is empathy. But I really like the way rabbit coins look so I have one of those too. Rob tells me that the rabbit isn’t doing much for me.

Rob and I have placed guardians all around us. Garden gnomes watch over the lawn, a Lucky Cat statue safeguards the books. We pay homage to our ancestors with their pictures on the mantel.

But the charm I hold most dear is a small silver fairy that I wear around my neck whenever I fly on an airplane. My oldest sister gave me the fairy in 1970 and I partly believe in it’s power because I haven’t ever lost it. It harkens back to an era of hippies and free spirits. My fairy and I lift the plane into the air and safely land the equipment onto the runway. The captain helps but I know that my fairy and I assure our safe return.


Admitting all of this goes against what I have always believed about our adult selves. We travel with plans. We scope out a detailed itinerary that includes roadside attractions, well researched restaurants, side trips and we only stay at hotels with high marks on Trip Advisor. We allow logic and reason to guide us through most of life. We are firm believers in science and evolution and scoff at organized religions and the zealots who hold their faith dear. We do not believe that catastrophic weather is the result of a pissed-off God. We laugh at the television evangelists preaching to thousands of blinking congregants who nod their heads in agreement.

“Sheep!” Rob barks as he changes the channel.

Followers of God accept truth in the unseen. Their faith is something deep inside them and they believe life’s randomness are acts of God. “God works in mysterious ways” or “only God knows” are common responses to unexplained events.

So you might think that our affection for good luck charms is more than a little duplicitous. We could probably become members of the Church of the Good Luck Charm. The difference lies in the fact we know these things are trinkets. At the end of the day I know the fruit bowl was there all along and why the coin fell out of my pocket and the pilot, weather conditions and air traffic control landed the plane safely.

But the fairy makes me feel better.




Rob’s main criteria in a home has always been security. We recently hired a cleaning woman after I had foot surgery and he ran around the house locking all his valuables up in his darkroom.

“She’s not going to take anything,” I protested.

“If she does, it won’t be my things.”

“You’re being silly.”

“Safe,” he corrected me.

So you can well imagine how happy he was to see that our lake home was wired with an alarm system before we purchased it. The fact that our security company is called Bobs doesn’t seem to bother him. Besides the view, my main selling point has always been a working brick fireplace. Our living room is tiny but the large stone-faced hearth makes up for it. I’ve always found burning logs inside a fireplace on a cold winter day utterly romantic.

As an early riser I used to like to slip downstairs on a Sunday before the rest of the family awoke and whip up a batch of biscuits or scones from scratch. This was followed by a pot of Irish Breakfast tea topped off with the morning paper in front of a roaring fire. It was difficult to get through all the tasks before one of the children discovered me but on one particular morning I almost succeeded. Everything was prepared and in order for the fire to catch and without a lot of bother I overloaded an extra bit of fire starter sticks under the main logs. I stuffed newspaper beneath that and struck the match.

The fire ignited in an instant and by the time I turned around to sit down to my tea and unread paper the room had begun to fill with smoke. Suddenly a loud piercing siren rang through the house and all the inhabitants were awake and shouting. Rob raced downstairs, rightfully screaming with the fire extinguisher in hand. He vigorously doused the blaze, pulled the flue chain, closed off doors, opened windows and within a matter of seconds managed to dig a fan out from a closet to begin blowing the smoke outside. The alarm rang on. Fire engines started to sound in the distance and increased in volume as they collected outside our front door.

Now anyone who ever forgot to open the flue knows that it does not require the assistance of an entire local volunteer firefighting team replete with four full size engines. To make matters even worse, my daughter Quinn stared out at the commotion gathering in front of our house and gasped. Mr. Johnson, the local fire chief, was heading down the front steps.

            “It’s my teacher, Mr. Johnson.”

To have your teacher enter your smoke filled chaotic home with everyone still in pajamas was a fate worse than death for a sixth grader. She started to cry. Jackson who also had Mr. Johnson two years prior ran away and spied the commotion from an upstairs window.Image

            “Get out there,” Rob shouted steering me towards the front door. “You made this mess!”

The happy thought of biscuits, tea and the Sunday Times in front of the fire were gone and I stuffed my bare feet into boots, threw a car coat over my pajamas and went outside to take my medicine.

            “Ha, ha,” I laughed nervously and clutched my coat tighter. “I forgot to open the flue. All fixed.” I shot off a shamefaced grimace and shrugged my shoulders.

The firemen were clustered at the top of the steps like it was old home week and Mr. Johnson peered inside the smoky house relieved that it wasn’t ablaze.

“My husband put it out with the extinguisher.”

He nodded. “Just what I would have done.”  

The infernal alarm finally stopped, but not before every neighbor within a half mile had come outside to see which culprit had roused them so early on a Sunday morning.

Mr. Johnson smiled. “It happens.” He wrote something down on his clipboard and radioed back to the drivers to start pulling out. “Piece of advice,” he said as he turned to leave.

            “Yes,” I answered a bit too eagerly.



            “And plenty of it.”

            The next day Quinn skulked into class hoping to go unnoticed when kind old Mr. Johnson called her out and reprimanded her absent mother in front of the entire class.

            “Remind your mother to open the flue next time!” he laughed.

When she relayed the story after school it was hard to feel too sorry for her. After the firemen left Rob had taken Jack and Quinn out to breakfast and then to a museum for the day. I had stayed home and washed the curtains twice, vacuumed the couch with baking soda, polished the floors and cleaned the windows. I also sprayed copious amounts of Febreeze. It was my choice to stay and clean, hoping it would imbed in my brain to never make that mistake again.

As a precaution we didn’t use the fireplace again for remainder of that winter but the following fall with a careful nod to safety I always had Rob check the flue before I lit the first match.