When I was a kid, our family used to spend the summer at my grandmother’s cottage on Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in New York State. Many relatives from my mother’s side of the family also used to go there in the summertime, so sometimes there would be a pretty big crowd of people, including lots of kids.
We had fun at the lake, and spent most of the time in the water. I learned how to swim there, flapping around in the shallows with my water wings, and later loved to run like mad down the dock and jump into the water with my sister and cousins.
My grandpa finally realized that it was getting really crowded in the cottage, so he built an extension that we called “the annex.” It was just like an army barracks, with rows of cots for us to sleep in. There used to be just an outhouse, but then Grandpa finally built a bathroom up the hill from the house. But we kids, if we had to pee in the middle of the night, didn’t want to walk through the creepy darkness to the outhouse, and we didn’t want to climb up the hill either, so Grandma put a big bucket in the annex and that solved the problem.
One of my memories of the lake was the wonderful food that grandma would buy at different stores and farms in the area. We’d have fresh sweet corn, “country” butter (very yellow and salty) and she would make homemade ice cream in the crank freezer. Everything always tasted wonderful.
On rainy afternoons the grownups liked to go to the “grog shop,” a local bar, and we kids used to go with them. They’d sit at the bar and we’d gather round a table in the other room where the jukebox was and drink sodas. I used to put in a whole quarter so I could listen to Mario Lanza sing “Be My Love” five times in a row. I loved the grog shop and I can still remember how it smelled, of seasoned wood and beer.
In the evenings at the cottage, we’d sit in a circle and play penny ante poker, throwing our pennies into an aluminum pan in the middle of the floor. It was the later 40s and early 50s, so there was no TV, but we found lots of ways to keep ourselves amused with board games and charades.
The cottage isn’t there any more, and from what I’ve heard, the area has become a public beach. But I’ll never forget those summers at the lake, skipping stones, taking rides in Uncle John’s rowboat, and staying in the water until my fingers and toes were all white and wrinkly.