Monday, June 20, 2016

Up the Lake- Not a Diary

Last summer, when Rosa took her Mom back to Peru, I spent two weeks Up the Lake with Anabelle.   It was the first time I spent anything resembling that stretch of time in over twenty-five years.  I expected it would easily spawn posts in the form of a day by day travelogue, similar to all of our other vacations.

Amazing and wonderful though the stay was, it didn’t, because Up the Lake doesn’t work that way.

The write up for just about every day up there would, in general, look the same:

We awaken well rested.  At least those of us with the Frissora genes that allow us to sleep through the combination congested steam engine/ three stooges level of snoring noise that comes from that many people with allergies in a building with thin plywood walls separating us from each other and the pollen outside.  We have breakfast, while the kids alternate between eating and playing outside.  Yes, we ended up throwing out a lot of cold eggs that way, but their happiness made up for it.

Invariably someone passed by, either walking a dog, dropping off a newspaper, borrowing a random baking ingredient, offering a sample of the results of random baking ingredients, or just to say hello.

If the kids got caught up in their adventures, or coloring, or randomly running around for no reason, we’d eat lunch at the cabin.  Usually, we’d pack it to bring down the Lake.   While the likelihood of the occasional boat picnic stayed the same, much to the joy of any passing fish, regular Lake lunches were a relatively recent development.  When I was a kid, we’d go down the Lake earlier, come up for lunch and go back down again.  That was also back when everyone always walked up and down the Lake (often carrying laundry) instead of driving. Always using cars to travel up and down is something that became rampant in later years, which some of us traditionalists (or insane exercisers) fought against tooth and nail.  Maybe there was less gravity back in the old days?

Normal Lake stuff took up most of the day.  For me that’s reading, swimming and playing with children  often by hurling them great distances into the water.  I’ve gone on about my swimming addictions before.  Often I was asked what I could possibly think about during a multiple hour swim.

The simple answer:
“Absolutely nothing. 
It’s one of the only times I can do that, and it was glorious.”

Beach time would end when everyone’s Lake activity enhanced appetites drove them back up to the cabin for dinner.   Post meal campfires, in a shopping cart for many of us, were rules of the evening.  Toasting marshmallows was optional, but frequent enough that the kids would have periods of being sick of them.

Nights usually featured card, role playing, board, or “running around the cabin like a nut” games for the kids. The classic childhood syndrome of “goofy tired” responsible for the last one being the most frequent occurrence, and usually leading to them passing out shortly after.  Occasionally, “goofy tired” would transition to “meltdown tired” if we didn’t get them to bed by collapse time.

With the kids safely tucked away, some adults would gather, mostly to talk, but there was usually some pretense of a card game.  This transitioned in the Eighties to Trivial Pursuit for a while.  That craze swept the nation with such force; it reached it up to our isolated, wooded location.  Me having a bucket of useless crap for a head helped encourage it.   The latest activity was mah jong, which is basically cards, but the tiles are more resistant to the local humidity.   Also there’s the added bonus of a bunch of grandmothers sitting around a table making jokes about “cracks” and “bams.”

My personal night activities involved a glass of wine.  I’m definitely not alone in this as witnessed by the “cracks” and “bams” mentioned above.  Depending on the temperature I’d either sit in the hammock or next to the fire to read. Going on blood thinners drastically shifted the probability of which location I was at, and “next to the fire” evolved pretty close to “in the fire” on chilly late August nights.

Inevitably, I would fall asleep. Those two locations are the only ones on the entire planet where I could do that without a mouth guard and not wake up with a colossal, tooth gnashing induced headache.

It is that feeling of complete and total relaxation, togetherness and homeness that made us all return Up the Lake year after year, decade after decade. 

There's another bit that I've always felt, but didn't understand until my mother recently put it into words. Loved ones aren't truly gone Up the Lake.  It stems from the same connection we all feel among ourselves.  It's unheard of in this day and age that after four to five generations no one has moved more than walking distance away from each other.   That connection, and sameness continues after those close to us have passed on.  When we're home, they could still be Up the Lake.  When I'm there, my father isn't really gone, he just stayed home to go to work like he always did during the week.  The connection to the unchanging geography provides an unbreakable emotional link to the past. .  

While this fosters a wonderful sense of serenity and belonging, it makes for lousy comedy material.  Fortunately, in between those amazingly relaxing and soul quenching  times were semi regular ,blaring moments of insanity that could only be genetically created through transplanting several generations of Italian lunatics from the Bronx into a wilderness setting.

It is those moments that insure that Up the Lake becomes the main story topic whenever more than two of us are gathered together for any period of time, usually resulting in stunned mothers saying, “When did this happen?!?!?!” with regularity.

It is also those moments that have been lacking from my posts for far too long.

This shall be remedied in the coming weeks..

Up the Lake Index


Antonia Nedder said...

Love this , and it made me tear up I must say! Thanks for the good read.

Jeff McGinley said...

Many thanx. Now that this is out of the way, I can get back to the funny stories.