It’s official. I’m a Loony.

w5chairThis is Wally Ben writing, since my mom lets me write about my trips because I tell it better. I spent the last week in Silver Lake, Michigan with over 60 of my Grandma Ott’s side of the family, called the Loonies. I’m not really sure where that name came from, but there are a lot of stories that make the name make sense. In one story, my dad says when he was a kid, the adults made all the kids walk through a cemetery alone while the adults hid and dropped mannequins with ketchup on them from trees. In another story, as a kid, one of the great Aunties used to use her allowance to buy meat. And once, a tuxedoed cousin water skied all the way around the lake without getting a drop on his suit, and then when he made it to the dock, my Poop Poop (Grandpa) pushed him in the water. From everything, I’ve heard, though, I think the Loonies have always just been Loony, and that’s where the name comes from. I especially think this in Silver Lake, when I watch my Donno and her sisters and brother sitting in their fold out chairs talking about this and that all day, and then this and that some more.

Every summer, the first week in August, all the Loonies go to Silver Lake. We stayed the week with my Grandma Ott and Poop Poop, Auntie Debbie and Uncle Barry, and cousins Dan and Mary. We eat meals and hang out with Donno and Bops, Great Auntie Junie, and cousin John, Auntie Jane, Uncle Joel, and my cousin Grady. But there were a lot more relatives there—Great Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, Second Cousins, and probably third and fourth Cousins, but my Dad says it doesn’t matter who’s what to who, because we’re all Loonies. And if you’re a Loony, you’re family.

For that week, everyone crams into cottages around the lake and spends most of the day on Great Uncle Chuck’s back grassy lawn, which they call the beach, looking out toward the long dock and the big sandy dunes on the other side of the lake. When we were walking from the beach to our cottage one day, my mom told me that, even though this was my first time here, it was like I’ve been coming for generations. The place is in my blood. I just belonged.

Like a true Loony, I found my voice in Silver Lake. The first day at dinner, I looked around and listened to the great din that these people make, and I realized if I didn’t speak up, I wasn’t going to get a word in edgewise. So I yelled all week, Arrr to this and Arrrg to that. And would you believe how much fun it was to yell? I yelled so much that my Great Donno thought my mom and dad weren’t going to ever let me come back!

I also learned to clap in Silver Lake. I was figuring out how to make drum sounds on the floor with Mary and Dan, and they clapped, so I tried to mimic the move. It started out with a faint wiggle of my arms with my hands stuck together. My dad said it looked like a strange arm worm. But by the end of the week, I was even clapping to music, and everyone around me would applaud at my clapping. I have a feeling mom and dad are going to have a hard time keeping up the noise of that ovation.

I shared a room with my mom and dad. I didn’t know they were there the first morning, so I slept in. But then I stood up, and mom and dad were right next to me. They pulled me into bed, and I thought it was the most fun! I crawled around beat them up, and wrestled the pillows. It was so fun that every morning I decided to get up earlier and earlier! My mom and dad decided to hide from me when they would hear me make my first move. They’d be cowering behind their pillows, and first one of my little hands would show up at the rim of the Pack N Play, then the other, then my little head would slowly rise—like the cutest little horror movie ever invented (at least that’s what cousin Mary said when mom described it to her).

As we pulled away from Silver Lake, I gave the week a round of applause, and mom and dad cheered me on, too. Now that I’m back, I miss spending so much time with Poop Poop and Grandma Ott, the days swimming in the Lake, trips to Pentwater and Luddington, the way-too-crowded cottage, the Brown Bear, my three new girlfriends, the bearded cousins, Bops and Donno and her “twin” Junie, and my very first taste of Auntie Debbie’s famous cannelloni. I also had my first Whippy Dip, and my mouth is still watering thinking about it next year. I can’t wait for Silver Lake again. But at least in the meantime, I still get to be a Loony, because my dad said once you’re a Loony, you’re always a Loony. Especially if you’ve been to Silver Lake, and now I have.