Of the three essays I’ve read so far, this one is the most open to interpretation. Once More to the Lake is a deeply personal piece about a lake in Maine that White’s father had taken him to as a child and that he too had taken his own son. White speaks of the permanence of the lake and by extension, life. On returning to the lake, it strikes him that while people come and go, the roles and relationships they fill stay largely the same. He sees in himself the father he once had, and he sees in his son the boy he once was. The longer he stays at the lake, though, he begins to see that it’s not quite that simple and clean. Certain things have changed, like the technology and culture that surrounds them.
It seems at first that these changes bother him. And I can understand that. They mar an otherwise simplistic view of life. But White seems to accept these changes, just as he accepts that the cyclical nature of life that had so entranced him also signals his inevitable death.
Reading this essay, it occurs to me how tempting it must be, as a parent, to see the path your children walk as one and the same as your own. In its broad strokes, I see the truth in that sentiment. Not all parents, however, see much further than that, and therein lies the source of a rift so commonly experienced between parents and their children. E.B. White does not seem to fall into that trap, though, as he notes that despite his initial inclinations, there is more to his son’s life than what he himself has already experienced.
This is a piece I will need to revisit if I ever have kids of my own. Considering my, uh, current lack of funds, however, I hope that does not happen anytime soon. (I prefer pets myself.)