Somewhere sandwiched in between the summer of rainstorms and flooding there was the summer of heat, humidity, and sun. With our air conditioner on the fritz, I packed up the kids in the car and headed south on RTE 22a to my aunt and uncle’s cabin in the woods. It’s perched ever so slightly on slate rocks that touch the shores of Sunset Lake.
My aunt and uncle bought the place years ago as a summer retreat from the hot stink that is NYC in the summertime. Now it has become their full time home. As a child and throughout high school I would rendezvous with my 4 cousins every summer at that lake. Long days of playing in the water, catching salamanders, and going for walks in the surrounding woods known as fairly-land were how we spent our days. Nestled in a “hobbit-like” forest was a large boulder, known as “secret rock.” My cousin Jayme and I would retreat to secret rock to escape the hands of her destructo-boy brothers. Not to be fooled, we were just as rough and tough as our male counterparts. I remember those summers fondly. My skin would turn a wonderful dark chestnut, my hair would be kissed with red highlights (clearly an homage to my mother’s gorgeous ruby red locks), and the soles of my feet would be permanently black from dirt. We’d stay up late past our bedtime, catch fireflies, and eat junk food. It was summer at the lake.
Now that I’m grown up, or rather…older, my cousin Jayme and I still meet at the lake with our respective families. Her brothers (my cousins) and family will also occasionally join. The once shoddy cabin with skeezy beds and no dishwasher has been transformed in to an all-weather house. Regardless, it’s still summer at the lake.
Taking two kids to the lake without your partner is akin to being a single parent. And for any of you single parents out there who do it day-in and day-out, I applaud you. Fortunately for me my family, also visiting at the lake last week, helped take turns with the kids when I needed a break. And I wasn’t afraid to ask for help…well, most of the time.
With a little help from my family I had a quiet moment to myself while standing next to the dock waist deep in the water. Henry was playing with his cousin Olivia (9 months older than he), and Ruby was napping. As a child, and still to this day, I could never hold my nose underwater. I was plagued by the water rushing in to my sinuses and making me choke. Perhaps I never got a good swim lesson as a kid, or maybe it was when my mother dunked me in the water at the YMCA as an infant…either way, I never fully learned to plug my nose underwater. I had to wear a swim mask or even worse…nose plugs. Every childhood picture of me and my cousins at the lake includes me wearing those flesh colored nose plugs. What a dork. If there was audio clips from that time, inevitably you’d hear, “hey guys, don’t swim without me, wait for me to get my nose plugs positioned correctly.” All said with a nasally Gilbert Godfrey voice.
Where was I? Oh yes, standing next to the dock in the water. With that one free moment I had to myself, I put on a kid’s swim mask and dived down in to the water. It was as if the water transported me back to when I was a child. Diving down and digging under the rocks, pulling up snail shells, pink stones, other times, a sunken water toy. I dived down repeatedly until I was out of breath. As I “mermaid swam” my way under water, making sure to avoid the mucky parts of the lake, I forgot for just a moment that I was a mother…a wife… I forgot that my lower back ached from picking up my heavy baby every day. I forgot about all the scars, stretch marks, and grey hairs that were encroaching upon my youth. Maybe this is what they call “meditation.” Being in the moment, breathing in the moment, and being ok with the moment.
The rest of the wonderful mid-week visit to the lake consisted of corralling kids to the dinner table, giving them all baths, and washing their dirty little feet. Stories were read, and children were tucked in to modestly made but clean beds (way past their bed time), hair smelling fresh of shampoo and skin still glowing from the warm sun. And just like that, history began to repeat itself.