L is for Lightning bugs and lakeside lily pads. Twelfth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
After the scary Susquehanna flooding subsided and school was over for the year, my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y. were filled with childhood play and the wonders of nature.
First among them, in June, were lightning bugs — those sparkling miracles that would flit around after dusk and twinkle above shrubs and lawns. They loved the humidity near the river — and my brothers, neighborhood playmates and I would catch them in mayonnaise jars and marvel at their phosphorescence before letting them escape into the night.
All sorts of flora and fauna sprang up along the flood plain — so we kids got nature lessons as we walked around or rode our bikes or played hide-and-seek to pass the time. And I learned not to be squeamish about our discoveries.
For example, the receding river water left hatching toads in its wake — millions of them! When you walked on the drying mud near the river, the ground seemed to leap in unison each time you stepped.
The toads were brown and blended in, but we loved to catch them and marvel at their minuscule size — only as big as a fingernail. Of course our mothers were beside themselves, and told us firmly, “Stop catching toads!” as we headed out to play. But the little jumpers were so hard to resist — and so interesting to look at.
Milkweed and burdock
Right behind our back yard, there was a huge stand of milkweed — the smooth green pods waving in the sun and their white sap bitter on my fingers when I tried to pull one off. Monarch butterflies love the plant’s flowers, so we had plenty of those around, too
Best of all was when the milkweed matured and released thousands of white seed tufts floating through the air — so soft to the touch compared to the green pods of early summer. We kids loved to blow on them to send them sailing.
Then there was the bane of every mother’s existence — burdock! When we ran in the field behind our house, the plant’s rough seed coat (the inspiration for Velcro) got stuck to our clothes. Oh, how I hated coming home to face my mother with burdocks clinging to my socks! How could I know then that it was an edible, medicinal plant?
Lakeside lilies and giant hogs
Not long after we moved to Endwell, my parents bought a small lot on Page Lake in New Milford, Pennsylvania — about a 45-minute drive away — where we used to go on weekends. Our camp was located on the opposite shore, as shown in the photo below.
That’s where my brothers and I learned to swim — and one of our first jobs was to dive under water and pull up the water lily plants that blocked our access to the lake. Those lilies were pretty — but boy were they tough. We would dive and yank at the roots and come back up for air, then back down again. But by the end of the first summer, we managed to clear them so we could enjoy our swims.
Access to our lakeside lot required driving over the hill behind it, shown in the lake photo above, on a road that traversed a local farm. When we turned in from the main road, one of us kids would get out to open the farm gate — then we would drive between two styes filled with huge, napping pigs (the largest I had ever seen!) and down to the lakeside road.
Blackberries and fried fish
When we weren’t swimming, my parents liked to take us for walks in the woods above the lake. The woods were cool and pretty, with a mix of pine and deciduous trees — and there were blackberry bushes where we could eat our fill. A nice, natural dessert after a pan-fried dinner of fish we had caught in the lake — both still favorites of mine.
Up next, M is for Miss George: My fourth grade teacher. Please stop back!
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