Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Girl in the Picture

The photo that you now see adorning my blog was taken when I was about 8 years old. We had two lake houses in Maine where we vacationed each year. When this photo was snapped, we were in a remote area near Ellsworth, where our family maintained a little, rustic, one-room cabin in the woods. It had no running water, no electricity, and a privy for which to answer the call of nature. The lake itself was more of a marsh, with snapping turtles and multitudes of frogs, and I remember myself, my sister Amy, and my cousins would spend half the day catching and releasing the little critters just for fun. There was a huge sawdust pile about a thousand feet or so from the cabin, and it was ideal for use as a slide into the water below. Or as a diving platform from which to launch yourself. Nearby, there were vast fields of wild Maine blueberries, and we'd make a day of going out with big buckets to harvest the juicy morsels. Fresh muffins and blueberry pancakes were a staple food each morning, and because we'd literally pick bushels of berries, we'd freeze boatloads of them and have them throughout the year.

It was all very Huck-Finnish, and I doubt back then we realized how lucky we were to have a place like that, something that was constant and fun and which we looked forward to every year. We were lucky, and I feel very fortunate to have had such a great childhood experience.

It was such a remote location that we couldn't drive in to get there - we had to hike for about three hours on a very rough, unmaintained road instead. We would travel there by car or truck to a designated stopping point--if I remember correctly, it was some kind of radio tower--get out, and start gearing up for the onerous foot journey. We'd change our clothes -- something that protected us from the ubiquitous mosquitoes and other bug life. Usually it was white turtlenecks, hats with pull-down netting, much bug spray, and good sturdy boots. After that, we'd haul our individual backpacks up and begin the trek.

I remember hating that walk; mostly because I am and was a fundamentally lazy girl. If I could have had a sampan and a couple of strapping boys to lift me up and carry me in, I would have been perfectly happy to make the journey, but alas, it was not to be. And even when we got to the cabin, we couldn't quite relax, because there was a good hour or more of setting up camp. Mom would have to get after me time and again to get off my butt and help out; I was always trying to tuck myself in a corner and hope like hell I wouldn't be noticed until everything was done. Heh.

But once camp was set up, the cabin opened, canoe perched happily at the edge of the shore, we had so much fun. Today I think I'd be pretty squeamish about swimming in that lake, with it slimy, soggy bottom and the various lifeforms that resided therein. But when you're a kid, things like that don't faze you in the least. When I wasn't burying my nose in a book (which was quite often--another thing Mom got after me about), I was joyfully playing in the water with my sister--and my cousins, if we were all there at the same time.

We haven't been there in many years, and I miss it every now and again. Recently my Mom lent me her computer, and there were some great photos of us back then. As I sifted through them, I was suffused with nostalgia, wondering if the sawdust pile was still there, or if it had eroded to a mere memory. Our camp log, which every member of the family had faithfully written in during each visit, had been stolen in one of many thefts and raids over the years, so a lot of our memories had been lost along with it. Whoever the bastards are that raided that place and took our stuff, may God visit that karma back on you tenfold. What we had there wasn't much, but it was important to us, and you just came in and took it because you felt like it. Assholes.

At any rate, my cousins and I just got back in touch through the magic of Facebook, and it's really wonderful to be able to send them messages and stay in contact again. I've missed them a lot, and am so happy to hear that they're all doing so well. Hopefully we'll all be able to get together one day and have some fun again as a group. That would be the coolest thing.

Tomorrow I'll write about our other lake house and post some more images, but for now, I'll leave you with some previews. Ain't we adorable?

Me and Sis and the Sawdust Pile. My hair has not improved or tamed in the intervening decades.

Getting geared up for the hike to camp. Check out Amy's rockin' pants!

Morning coffee and cocoa with Mom.

BANZAI! Amy takes the leap.

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