Saturday, November 24, 2018

Home, Away From Home

There is a comfortable feeling one gets coming home, yet a different one coming to a familiar temporary home. A vacation home, campground, or resort have a special sweetness as one approaches through familiar territory one has not seen for months, crossing threshold after threshold of arrival until one is finally at The Place. There is sometimes still a lot of work to do, loading in and setting up, and one is impatient - the children especially are impatient - to have done with all that and finally be settled, able to refresh acquaintance with objects, people, and views. If boats are involved there is a whole second level of arrival.

My wife's family lived in Scituate, a South-Shore coastal town, so some of vacation was always in place.  They would travel by car to other places, sometimes to visit friends on Lake Sebago, but more often on sightseeing trips. My family went always to lakes, only rarely to NYC or Washington DC. My stepfather's family had gone to Lake George and to a family cottage in NW Connecticut, my mother's family was Rte 28 all the way, mostly Winnipesaukee.  I don't know how she won that one, but we rented cottages all around The Lake until finally buying one on Cow Island as the last child was finishing high school. After a near-fatal boating accident, they moved back onshore to Melvin Village, eventually retiring to Wolfeboro.

Cow Island was our last experience of that going-away-to-a-homecoming of cottage experience for a long time. It was family camping after that, with tents, then popups - first at the Lutheran camp.  That was my children's childhood and stamped in family culture.  Even now I will say "Camp Calumet" when I mean to say "Pilgrim Pines." Coming to a familiar campground has much the same feeling on arrival, but not quite. The people you will see are much more the point at a campground. At a cottage you see the people on either side and refresh relationships with storekeepers and marina owners, but not much more.  Resorts are somewhere in between, I imagine.

We had a brief return to a vacation cottage for about five years between church camps, and it is now tiny lakeside cottage for us at a camp where many others tent or have RV's. We get some of that feeling coming to the same cottage every year, but never with the intensity of having to boat out to Cow Island and that peculiar magic of unlocking a place.  If it is hard to get there, going slowly on dirt roads for the final miles, so much the better. Visiting any of these places in the offseason is jarring, even when feeding the nostalgia somewhat. That same-but-not experience deserves its own reflections, perhaps. 

Going home from such places can be a bit of a wrench, the children moping about friends they will not see and things they will not be able to do for another year. Yet home is still home, and a relief.  This is even more so when you have had to be away from home for reason of obligation or even unpleasantness - family gatherings or business travel.  It is all quite different whether the family is all returning home together or if some are already in place while some are returning to them. But in neither case is it magical, as the summer (or winter) place is.


Texan99 said...

My childhood vacations usually meant visiting the grandfolks and cousins on a North Carolina farm. The pre-civil-war farmhouse stamped my psyche forever as the ideal of residential architecture, but what I remember most vividly to this day is spending every daylight house down at the creek with my cousin, trying to build a dam with loose creekbed gravel, learning about the force of water and the need for side channels. Half a century later I still can remember the exact prickle of wet leaves on my bare feet on the path down to the creek, and the smell of the wet rocks. My family didn't camp, but I did go to a couple of weeks of Girl Scout camp most summers, and developed a lifelong taste for it.

When we moved here to Rockport my first priority was a piece of land with woods on it. What could be better than crawling about in woods and thick brush? I know every square inch of this land. Every time I come back up my driveway it makes me happy.

Texan99 said...

daylight "hour" not "house"

GraniteDad said...

This was lovely