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Lake George - Part One

Lake George, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains. A beautiful place, to be sure, but so much more than that for me. It is the place where my family went on vacation every year from when I was about 3 or 4 until I was a teenager. It's where, I think, my family was at it's best. It's where some of my happiest, and strongest memories start. From the butterflies in my stomach as I watched my father pack the car on the night before we left, to the sight of the lake peeking out between the trees as we drove on Route 9, to the smell of the cabin we rented year after year.

Lake George has always been magical to me.

It wasn't a "fancy" vacation at a resort. There was no room service. There was no concierge. We rented a housekeeping cottage on a mountain with a pool, a playground, and a gorgeous view of the lake. We were 4 hours north of Brooklyn, but we might as well have been in another world. It felt that way to me. Especially at night when the stars came out. I never saw stars like that before.

There were 13 cabins in a horseshoe on the property. Ours was the only 2-story house and my parents quickly dubbed it "The Ponderosa." The first year it was just our immediate family plus Aunt El and Uncle Stan, but each summer after that we seemed to add more and more family and friends. Soon, we had 11 out of the 13 cabins. The place was crawling with Casales! Aunts, Uncles, cousins and friends of the any given time there could be 40 or 50 of us.

We were the lucky ones. Besides the big cabin, we stayed for two weeks. Here is how my mother tricked herself into saving for our vacation: My Dad got paid every other week, but my mother budgeted for twice a month. This way, when he would get an extra paycheck or two during the year, she would pretend he didn't and save it. She also claimed one less dependent on their taxes so that when they got their refund check, they had money for "the country."

Yes, "the country." It was the country to us. We were city kids who grew up with stoops and handball courts, not lakes, creeks and woods. To go fishing and frogging and swimming in a pool everyday? Unheard of.

I had a freedom there that I didn't have at home. We lived on a busy avenue in Brooklyn and my parents really didn't let me out of their sight. But in Lake George we didn't have to worry about cars or strangers. We would run out of the cabin to play after breakfast (sometimes eating breakfast in another relative's kitchen) and then head to the pool where we swam until our lips were blue. We'd go up for lunch, or the grownups would bring lunch down to us. (Of course, we had to wait a half an hour before getting back in the pool! Does anyone even do that anymore?)

After showers and dinner, we'd play until nightfall. My Mom would braid my damp hair and put me in a sweatshirt. She'd hose me down with OFF and my cousin Paul and I would go look for good marshmallow roasting sticks. My father and uncles with start the fire (later this became a job for my brothers and boy cousins). We'd put the Adirondack chairs in a circle around the fire. My Uncle Sal would take out his guitar and sing silly songs. My father and his brothers would harmonize and sing "Blanche." This is how I like to think about my father and my uncles; singing and smiling with their arms around each other. There wasn't a person around that fire who wasn't exactly where they wanted to be. When you look around the circle and every face is someone you love and someone who loves you, why would you want to be anywhere else?

My Dad would wake up early some mornings to fish. My Mom would lay out by the pool and get brown as a berry. The boys of the family would practice dives off the board. The girls would have "tea parties" under the water. When it rained, we would play games and cards on the porch and put pots on the floor to catch the drips from the ceiling.

Lake George is where I fell in love with the sound of the screen door slamming.

Lake George is where I learned to swim.

Lake George is where I went on vacation this year.

(To be continued....)

This post first appeared on The Girl Out Of Brooklyn, please read the originial post: here

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Lake George - Part One


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