F is for Family Fun and Farm Visits. Sixth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
On weekdays during my early teens in the 1960s, my parents, siblings and I moved on autopilot through our own worlds of school, work and household duties — followed by family dinner together, then outside briefly, homework and bed.
Off to Page Lake
But Saturdays in the warmer months meant family time at our “lot on the lake” — a camp on Page Lake in New Milford, Penna., about 40 minutes south of Endwell.
My parents grew up in New York’s Adirondack foothills – Mom in Gloversville, Dad in Otter Lake – where anyone who could afford it had a lakeside camp. So they wanted one, too.
Never mind that it was the budget version — with a plywood lean-to for a cabin (I helped Dad shingle the roof!) and a separate building with a toilet we flushed with buckets of lake water (a handy skill even now when plumbing problems arise!).
Still, we had a dock, a row boat, and later a motor boat, and my parents were determined that we kids would learn to swim, fish, hike in the woods, cook on a campfire and generally enjoy nature — which we did!
There were also annual trips to Montrose, Penna., for fishing licenses — a town that generated a wave of nostalgia when I returned in 2019 to research my Blakeslee ancestors.
A camp conundrum
In my early teens I enjoyed some aspects of camp – swimming, rowing down to the end of the lake to park our rowboat and read among the cattails or sitting by the campfire as fresh-caught fish sizzled in a cast iron skillet. According to my diary, sometimes my school friends even came along.
June 28, 1964. Barb and Jackie came to the Lake!
Yet as my teens progressed, when we were at the lake I began to miss my busy life of listening to top-40 radio and chatting with girlfriends on the phone — a sure sign that I was growing up and away from the family fun I enjoyed as a youngster.
My other regular getaway in the early 1960s was summer stays with Boom and Gramps — my maternal grandparents Tony and Liz (Stoutner) Laurence — on their Alamont, N.Y., farm. And in my early teens, I began to have mixed feelings about these visits as well.
On the one hand, my grandmother tried to plan teen-appropriate activities. We went clothes shopping at Cohoes factory stores, she let me stay up late to watch her favorite mystery show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, she taught me crochet, and she drove me into Altamont or Schenectady to meet up with my teen friends — some from childhood, others from my new Dave Clark Five Fan Club.
On the other hand, my grandparents crashed my teen ideal of true love. Yes, they’d been young and in love once — and eloped to Detroit in 1924 to get married when my grandmother’s mom objected. But by 1964, they’d been married 40 years and were settled into a routine that bothered me.
Specifically, Gramps would get on with whatever he had to do (going to work, grappling with wood and metalwork projects out in the barn, etc.) and my grandmother would nag him the minute he hit the house (not to track dirt on the floor, to put his work clothes in the hamper, etc.).
I ask my grandmother about love
This was a far cry from what I thought a romantic relationship should be — and not what I was used to at home in Endwell, where my parents had a policy of not disagreeing in front of us children. So one day as we drove off in the car, I put it to my grandmother.
“Don’t you love Gramps anymore?” I asked. She looked startled and hesitated for a moment behind the wheel.
“Why, of course I love your grandfather,” she responded, pushing her foot back down on the gas. I wasn’t convinced and pressed the issue.
“Then why do you keep yelling at him all the time?” I asked her.
I don’t remember her exact answer, but I am sure it was along the lines of relationships changing over time and that a bit of directing of Gramps on her part didn’t mean she didn’t love him.
What I do know is this was something Mom would never have dared ask my grandmother — so my frank conversation with Boom marked another step in coming into my own in my early teens.
Up next: G is for Gene Pitney and the Caravan of Stars. Please leave a comment, then join me tomorrow as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!
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