Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Happy Place (A Location of Mind and Memory) While Adulting

I grew up in Utica, then Syracuse, but my favorite memories of childhood were the summer days spent at Lebanon Reservoir, outside of Hamilton, New York. It was at my grandparent's camp that they moved to each year, to get away from their winter months in town - a two bedroom, living room/kitchen, single well-bathroom, and side porch facility with a dock, a fire pit on the banks, and wooden diving board.

The best part of the location? The acres behind the camp, where we played softball, croquet, frisbee, tag, and whatever other game we could imagine.

Then there was the lake. Our dog Dusty used to chase boats until the blackness of his paws turned pink and raw, the sunfish used to steal all our worms, and right before a rainstorm, the bullheads were abundant, and there was always a challenge of Dam cars, 2 points, 3 points, or even 4. How many water skiers will be on the water when we arrive, we used to bet one another, before moving into responsibilities of mowing the lawn, picking up sticks, and weeding the shrubs. There was always the adventure, too, of walking around the lake, avoiding horse flies, and getting to the candy store for Fun Dip, Pixie Stix, and other childish delicacies.

My sisters always knew that my dream job was to one day teach at Colgate University, with a home on the lake. Then I could watch the stars bathe in the water each morning like my grandmother used to do, or put a canoe on its sheen, to stroll along the waters. The location was a utopia: where nature met simple, simple met community, and community met relaxation.

In my head, I return to these locations (away from it all) with a vision that I actually made it come true - I found a space to call my Walden. The camp was sold, however, and visits back made all of us wonder what happens to time, change, neglect, and forgotten care.

This morning, I am thinking of this happy place and a simpler time. I am thinking of Grannie Annie's peppers, onions, and sausage concoctions, the side roads that meandered to Sherborne to visit Grandma Vera and Grandpa Ken, and the fireworks every 4th of July. Of course, there were Pitch tournaments, too, and twitches of branches to cut and wave to keep everyday flies from landing on your skin.

Hi/Low games. Swimming across the lake on a raft to make the trip to the candy store easier. The sound of cars driving along the stones as they came closer to pulling out picnic baskets and Milwaukee's Best.

Seems so long ago, but the smells, the happiness, and more importantly, the tranquility are with me in my mind, heart, and soul.

A new generation of Ripleys, Crandalls (and now Barnwells and Isgars) are upon us, and I wonder what it would be like if we all still had this retreat to regroup ourselves. It's not a big lake and I remember how upset the old folks used to get when speed boats came to use the waters to practice racing. I wonder, too, how many generations of ducks have been fed bread throw to them from the docks and if they ever had to drain the lake to clean it out (like they once did when we were kids).

I remember, too, a plaque that Grandpa Spence had over the light switch as you entered: The only difference between men and boys, is the size of their shoes and the size of their toys." It was a small toy, and we only had small boats, but I think about that location often and last night, before I went to bed, I thought, "Man, one day I want to take Chitunga, Abu and Lossine there."

I simply want the calm. 

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