I spend every summer on a lake.
My family’s place is located two hours north of the city. Deep in the mountains of the Catskills, an area of New York I don’t attempt to pinpoint anymore.
We come up every year in a time frame of July or early August when the weather is warm, and the blueberries are ripe.
The first time I came here I was 6 months old. I imagine my parents carrying me around the house and bringing me down to the water. A baptism of sorts.
But my earliest memory was when I was 5 years old. I had woken up early one morning, expecting to sit on the couch and watch television. Instead, I stumbled upon a bowl of blueberries being ransacked by hundreds of rats.
I ran down the hallway as fast as my little legs could manage, abruptly waking everyone with my warning call— “Rats in the blueberries! Rats in the blueberries!”
It wasn’t until many years later I was told it was not actually rats that had gotten into the blueberries, but mice. There were only three of them.
This is still one of my parent’s favorite stories to tell. My mom will do an imitation of my screaming as my dad leans back in his chair, laughing for as long as humanly possible.
The house we occupy is nothing grand or fancy, but it’s steps away from the water, with enough grass for rose bushes and games of Wiffle ball.
Inside reflects the years of my father and his siblings growing up here—the worn-out furniture and decorations; diplomas and trophies with my grandfather’s name.
It’s here I think about laying in the yard with my sister, the vintage diners we sometimes go to, trees filled with birds and spiders, metal row boats, and dark green hammocks. Pretending to be a pirate as I jumped off my favorite boat.
My imagination ran wild with stories to pass the time. Animals like toads and fish becoming my acquaintances for the time being.
My dad would help me catch chipmunks with peanut butter and tell me stories of how he spent his time at my age.
Once we caught one, I would sit and talk with it until it was time for dinner. He would make me release it at the end of the day, of course, reminding me that it was not ours to keep.
It was always sad saying goodbye to a new friend.
I feel too grown-up for my own good. And I think I’ve been desperately trying to speed up the process for years now. This lake is somehow the only place that can make me feel like a little kid again.
I wonder if that’s how my dad feels when he is here as well. He keeps a lifetime of stories from this place in his head just as I do.
And although his stories can be long, there will come a day when I’ll wish I could hear just one more.
I tend to forget that.
(In between writing and editing this my sister got engaged on the dock that overlooks the lake. The same place where our parents did.
Just another reminder of how much older I’ve become.
Someday, maybe, her future children will spend summers here just as we did. They will grow up with their own frogs to speak to, boats to jump off of, and blueberries to pick.