I’m going to tell you something that I have learned to keep a secret for a very long time now. In 1997, I was in a college class called, “Personal Transformation.” (Probably the best class ever invented) and we were talking about our childhoods –specifically overcoming things and letting go. The question was, “When was the first time you remember someone ‘raining on your parade?” This was eventually followed with horrible stories of abuse, neglect, pain and problems that made me want to hide under my desk and crawl out of the room. Even though I was 27 years old, each story seemed unimaginable to me.
The only thing I could think of was in fifth grade when it came time to separate our music class into band, choir and general music, I wanted to play the drums. I wanted to play them so bad, but my parents wouldn’t let me and I had to chose choir. This was the worst thing I could think of. This is when I learned to keep my ideal childhood a secret. Of course things weren’t perfect. I’m sure some things were unfair and mistakes were made. I remember my dad lost his temper with me once. But my childhood kind of resembled The Wonderyears. I had good friends, we played outside a lot, my family took big vacations, and we always ate dinner together at 6pm.
But, the most memorable part of my childhood was our cottage. We had a little cottage up on the shores of Lake Erie, and it is where we spent practically every day of our summer vacation. I swam everyday, played in the sand, rowed the rowboat, had lots of kids to play with, climbed trees, explored, had picnics and bon fires, it was just pure fun for a kid. In the same little cove as us, were aunts and uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles, my grandparents, and neighbors who had been there forever.
My little brother was known for eating breakfast at our house, then going to my grandma’s and eating there, and then going to my great-uncle’s, and then starting all over for lunch. Sometimes the men would go fishing, the women would make potato salad, corn on the cob and deviled eggs. Then they would take the picnic tables and actually line them up on the little road between the cottages and we would all eat together. Sometimes, my dad would get out the ice cream maker. All the kids would take turns turning until we thought our arms would fall off.
There was no phone. We never watched TV. My grandparent’s might have their small black and white on an Indians game but that was the extent of it –background noise to their card playing. When we slept the adults would gather outside and talk, drink a little, play cards, whatever. It was soothing to listen to. If my parents had to go home, they could leave us behind if we begged, because there were 10 other adults around and it was really no big deal.
Now, as Bill Cosby would say, “I told you that story, to tell you this one.” I had such an amazing day yesterday that I actually got chills.
Yesterday, I asked my neighbor Fred if he happened to go to the store any time this whole weekend, could he take us. I didn’t realize I was out of bread and jelly. I had just been to the store, but didn’t know. I had read Rumi and Raine a Frances book about bread and jam and I guess Rumi took it seriously all week, because I had two loaves of bread on Monday. Anyway, I thought if he were free at anytime, just let me know. He IMed back, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes.”
Then, when he gets there his friend Pierre (also from Norway) comes out of the car. He says, “I’m back! –For good. I’m going to be your neighbor!” Yeah! Then we go do a little shopping. We go out for pizza, and since we had just had pizza, the girls and I decide to split some spaghetti and salad. Well, they were out of meatballs so Fred talks us into Carbonara. I had never had it before –he has a way of getting me to try new things that I end up loving and craving –this is definitely on the list. Then we talk about all these things, having barbeques, hanging out, they’ll watch the girls if I want “me time.” My head starts swimming with possibilities.
After dinner, we all had a few groceries to pick up, and let me tell you, 5 adults to 2 children is the most amazing ratio! I never had it so easy in a grocery store! Both men pushed the carts, so the girls just thought that was awesome, because they knew how to play and make them giggle, and race around. Fred’s girlfriend Boo is the one who takes the girls swimming everyday, and she did my laundry when my nanny was gone. Well she’s also a masseuse, and when I was getting the beginnings of a migraine last night, she came over with Pierre’s girlfriend and they gave me a massage, during which, I seriously began to wonder and question how did my life get so good?
And then this morning I realized, this is kind of like my cottage summers, except my house is the a supreme cottage, but the sense of community, exploration, comfortableness, perpetual summer…I’m kind of reliving it as an adult, and giving such an amazing gift to my girls.