In the years before I was old enough to spend the bulk of the summer at camp, I lived at Mullett Lake at Nana’s cottage, or three doors down with Great Aunt Amy and her ancient siblings. Summers were a wonderland experience of free-roaming along the beach among friendly cottagers and relatives galore from two sets of great grandparents. Nana was a privileged, energetic woman who had graduated from Vassar and travelled the world. She started a day camp for all the beach children, hired college students as counselors, and bought a special cottage just to house them. Camp extended to overnight canoeing trips, visits to the Upper Peninsula, decorated boat parades, and elaborate carnivals at the campgrounds. Nana was the epitome of a queen bee as she reigned over many workers including cleaners and gardeners and a live-in cook.
Nana was not a sit-on-my-lap grandmother like Great Aunt Amy, and I don’t remember spending much personal time with her, but on Sunday nights when the cook disappeared into her private life, we ate popcorn and drank root beer for dinner. Nana and I would sit at the dining room table and play casino or double solitaire. When she tucked me into bed on the sleeping porch, she taught me a German prayer. I remember it still:
Ich bin klein, Mein Hertz ist rein, Soll niemand drin wohnen, Als Jesus allein
“I am a little child, my heart is pure, and no one shall live there but Jesus alone.”
But tragedy struck: Nana’s youngest son was killed in a car accident. A few years later she lost her middle son as well. All she had left were the grandchildren and my father. Nana could not bear the grief; she died a year later of a brain tumor.
My childhood evolved into many foolish choices that ushered me into dangerous, even evil, situations. But as I look back at the harrowing experiences and near-disasters of my teenage years, I believe that simple German confession of faith resulted in the power of God protecting me.