One can never forget E.B White’s essay “Once More to the Lake,” written for The New Yorker” in 1929. In this essay, White describes in a most eloquent, and detailed fashion, the pleasures he experienced as a child, making an annual retreat with his father to a lake in the woods of Maine. Equally compelling is his account of bringing his own son to this special place. As he notes, the joyfulness of the place was enhanced with each new iteration, as he relives his own childhood experiences through the eyes and delights of his son.
I know the feeling well. Â As I described in my earliest blogs, I have had the good fortune of inheriting a cottage at Lake Hawthorne, situated in 450 acres of woods, in Northern New Jersey. Â It has been in my family now for five generations, so I have had a chance to witness a number of traditions being reenacted and reinforced over time. Â With each new crop of children I, too, was able to fondly reminisce and relive some powerful experiences not only with respect to my own childhood but also that of my son.
It was, therefore, with great anticipation that I set out for the New Jersey Highlands on the Thursday before the Fourth of July. Never mind the two and a half days of preparation–cleaning, laundry, planting the few pots of daisies that had yet to be put in the ground. Never mind the relentless traffic along the way–the endless New Jersey Turnpike, with police cars stationed behind every turn, the roaring trucks racing along Route 287, and the crawling cascade of cars on Route 80, all leaving the city, seeking solace, and heading for destinations such as mine. Â As I neared the turnoff on Route 517 in Sparta, I could once again smell the flowers–so to speak. So could my dog Sparky, who extended his nose as far as he could out the car window, and then sniffed and sniffed and sniffed.
Â Although I was as eager as Sparky to get to the Lake, we had to slow down. The last leg of the trip is a dirt road, and the heavy rains of the previous weeks had left a number of washboards in its stead. Negotiating the hills on the winding road around the lake we finally arrived. Out jumped Sparky, and I soon followed, my books, computer, and luggage in tow.
We were hardly there more than an hour, when my grandson Ben arrived full of pressing news. “Remember,” he said, “when my Dad and Uncle Bret had a fake marriage with their cousins Jenny and Tara. Well, tomorrow we are going to keep up the tradition; I am marrying Olivia (Jenny’s daughter and his third cousin), and Sophie (my grand daughter) is going to marry Brody (her godmother’s son).” It was all settled: they had been planning the event for a week.
The next day, in between claps of thunder and streaks of lightning, the wedding took place–best men, maids of honor, flowers and all. My husband Brock and I supplied the cakes–one chocolate, one vanilla. The children were serious, but a bit tenuous–as well they should have been. When asked if he took his Cousin Olivia for his wife, Ben replied: “Well sort of.” In response, Olivia replied, “Well kinda.”
You can imagine why sometimes when I am at the lake, I am–like E.B. White–not sure whether I am coming or going. At times like these, Â I like to remember that my son Stephen did not ever marry his cousin Jenny. Â However, he Â did marry his lake playmate Haley–the girl next door. Â