Monday, September 2, 2019

Memories of Summer in Upstate New York



I always feel a little melancholy when summer draws to a close because I enjoy summer so much - the light, the warmth, the easy cotton clothes. People say, "I am ready for summer to end," but I never am. I wish it stretched on longer.

TD likes the summer too and we both enjoy the beach. We traveled to a lot of beautiful beaches and visited friends and family this summer. We've been to the Jersey Shore, Fire Island, Southampton, Jones Beach and Rockaway Beach. The photos above and below are from Rockaway where we were this Saturday. The photo above is from the ferry ride home across the New York Bay. At the end of the day walking from the beach to the ferry we can stop at a deli and pick up two cold cans of Montauk Ale and then drink them while sitting on the top deck of the ferry on the boat ride home.


I grew up in a small town, New Hartford, in upstate New York, next to Utica, where the winters were long and harsh so when school let out when I was young and summer came it was a great joy. My parents liked summer too and we were outside all season long. This was before air conditioning was common. My brother Thom and I shared a bedroom on the top floor of our Cape Cod house, which was beastly hot. So outdoors we went. We had a wooden picnic table in the backyard and my mother and father and Thom and I and Cynthia and Eric often ate dinner there. My mother made cold salads - tossed iceberg lettuce salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad - and my father piled charcoal briquettes in the round charcoal grill and barbecued. My mother got ripe cantaloupe melon from a farmer in Clinton along with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

There were limited options for swimming in our vicinity but on summer mornings during the week my mother would pack up a lunch and we'd get in the station wagon and maybe stop and pick up a friend and visit a local swimming hole for the day. There was a lake near Rome, New York, the Delta Reservoir Park, that we went to. My mother was good at entertaining us and keeping us busy. I think she enjoyed being the mother of small children.

My father liked summer too and he wanted to be outdoors at night after he came home from work. He didn't talk to me much; he showed his affection by doing things. After dinner at the picnic table, he played hide and seek with us in the yard. Green shrubbery branches scratched my arms as I hid inside bushes that lined the yard. Sometimes after we ate we got in the car and drove to a park to play. Utica had many nice parks, and this was a very pretty park that we went to. It might have been Proctor Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who created Central Park in New York City. We could really run free through the woods and lawns knowing that our father was nearby.

Baseball was a favorite sport of his and he enjoyed going to see the Utica Blue Sox minor league baseball team play so after dinner we drove down to Murnane Field in South Utica. I couldn't have cared less about baseball but I got to bring my friend Patty Parker who lived next door and it was pleasant to sit outside on a cool summer night under the big, bright, white lights of the baseball field. There was a small swimming hole in New Hartford called Power Dam and my father sometimes took Thom and I there on the weekend. We played together in the shallow water and he let us climb all over him. His skin was oily. My father was distant from me growing up so it felt nice to be close to him at Power Dam. 

In the summer we saw lots of cousins in upstate New York -  on my father's side we visited Boehlert cousins in Rochester and Noonan cousins at Oneida Lake. On my mother's side, the Border girls came to 611, my great aunts' house in Herkimer, and we got together there. It was always jolly to see my cousins. Summer was a happy time, a holiday, then and I like it still. On a cool summer morning when I am standing in the kitchen with the window open, it feels like when my mother was making lunch for a day of adventures ahead. And I when I go to the Olmstead-designed Central Park (thank you Mr. Olmstead), it's like I'm with my father again in south Utica.