Most every summer growing up, my father would rent a cottage, a camp, a house on the side of a lake or near the Maine or New Hampshire beaches. I loved those vacations, sometimes weeks long with a constant coming and going of house guests. We spent hours in the water, on the water, exploring, swimming, making sand structures, eating sandy sandwiches, sleeping in shared beds and just being kids.
For me, the 4th of 5, I remember this time with love and warmth. For my mother, this was so much work. It never occurred to me that the vacation I so cherished was extra work for my Mom, the cousins and grandparents who came to visit more mouths to feed, towels to wash, linens to clean. But they were. And now that I get that, I am even more grateful for the summers at water filled with family and love.
I remember one summer at Northwood Lake, the year of the folding kayak and my father’s first sailboat, the Widgeon, the starting line for his love for sailing. That summer in that little house, I was either going into or coming out of 4th grade, a tumultuous year for me, the year I lied to a nun and endured the terror of Sister Rose. She literally scared the BeJesus out of me, and I had to lie when asked point blank if I had been talking when she left the room – doomed to hell, no doubt, for that transgression.
That year, I shared a bed with my older sister (much to her dismay) and my younger brother. The bedroom shared a wall with the common area adjacent to the kitchen, what would be the great room in one of today’s vacation homes. At the time, it was a narrow room with a sofa and a TV, and the wall between the bedroom and the ‘great room’ had a gap at the ceiling. If we boosted each other up, one of us could watch tv with the adults. So, as I recall, we took turns. In hindsight, it’s amazing what we were not allowed to watch, no doubt, less about the content and more about giving the adults some adult-time. And we could learn from that generation.
Love American Style was the quintessential early 1970s tv show, laden with innuendo that we as kids were strictly forbidden to watch, so imagine our delight when we heard the theme song through the ceiling crack. That night we stifled giggles as we watched Bernie Kopell behind the sofa on which sat my parents and the adult guests. I’m sure they knew we were there, watching. Giggling. Enjoying our vacation just like them. No doubt, even today, allowing children to get away with things is truly Love…American Style.