Open Water

Lakewood NY, Chautauqua Lake, Lake, Gazebo, Springtime, Open Water, Lakewood Beach

It happens every year.

This time I was away visiting my daughter in Kentucky, but I knew it was coming. The surface looked a little grayer each day and every time the wind blew you could feel it in the air. It was just a matter of time before it happened. On Friday Jim sent me a text message…

The ice is off the lake!

To someone who lives in a northern lakeside community, this is a big thing indeed! We all look forward to it with increasing excitement as time passes. The locals hold a contest to guess exactly what day it will happen. They even have a Facebook page to promote the event as a fundraiser for the local Lake Association. A well-known shop in one little town has a long list of painted numbers representing the exact date that it happened each year – some years more than once, when the weather was mild.

The lightness and hope that most of us feel is very real, almost palpable, as the news spreads. The sparkling water brings with it the promise of boat rides and sunsets, bare feet and great blue heron sightings, screen doors and dewy grass.

I remember the first time that I actually experienced the physical sensation of exhilaration that the open water gave me. I was about 16 or 17 and driving alone in my father’s car. The day was sunny and a little warmer, but it still had a sharp bite if you stood in the shade. I had the window down , and the wind was blowing my hair around, making it hard to concentrate.  When I came up over the hill on the main road that loops the lake the glare nearly blinded me. As I crested the rise and looked to my left I saw the sparkling waves. The energy that came from deep within me could be described as nothing less than freedom. Sweet summer release that was getting closer and closer. At that age it was less about the weather and more about daily life. It meant that the stress and worry of schoolwork and classes would soon be over and then the fun would begin!

Now it is more about longer days and not having to fight the snow and ice at every turn. No more worry about the forecast when making plans or thinking about loved ones who live alone and have to contend with the elements by themselves. Winter in this area is hard and the older we get the more difficult it seems to become. Thoughts of escaping to a warmer climate come more frequently as each season passes.

Soon we will all be complaining that “they” have returned. The ones who don’t belong here, the summer visitors. The roads will be busy with cars that have out-of-state license plates, and the traffic will be annoyingly slow. They will change the speed limit on the road that loops the lake and everyone will grumble that it takes too long to get from one place to another. Someone will proclaim that it is ‘too damned hot’. The long, cold winter will be forgotten to the demands of the busy tourist season.

This year as I look out my window at the little sliver of blue/gray water that is visible from my morning “spot” up here on the hill I am going to try to savor this hopeful feeling without the distraction of the bothersome things that springtime brings….the changeable temperatures that make it hard to know what to wear, the unexpected cold rain storms that come up quickly and take us by surprise when we left our jackets at home, the mud and the loose gravel and the black flies….the relief that we feel as we welcome the release from winter’s grip does not last long.

Before you know it we will be looking at the falling leaves, so for now I am going to think of this with sweet anticipation. Summers up here on the hill sure are spectacular…even if they are too short!

Summertime, relaxing, feet, coffee, cup, Squirrel Hill, lawn, hill, Chautauqua Lake

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Preoccupied

The past few weeks we have been a bit preoccupied here on the Hill.

Jim and I (mostly Jim) spent the beginning of June getting ready for the arrival of Fee (and her family) for a two-week visit.  We did a reno on the Master Bedroom, which turned in to a much larger project than expected – of course!  What project in an old house ever goes exactly like it is planned?  The transformation is not quite complete, but once things settle down I will be sure to post pictures.

The end of the month brought their arrival and the successive holiday week brought the rest of the family along for the festivities.  Today marks my return to work after a four-day weekend.  We still have house guests, and a proper update is well overdue.

In the meantime, they all seem to have slept in today! Since I found a few minutes of quiet, here is a collection of snapshots of Fee’s visit for her first American Independence Day celebration (among other things)

Dear Fee

Smiling baby in orange polka=dot skirt
Photo credit http://www.francescadb.com/

I am starting to get excited.

Do you want to know why? Exactly one month from today you are coming to see Poppa and me at our house here on the Hill!

You have already been here two times before, but this time I think it is going to be a little different. First of all…now that you are a bit older, I think that your Mama and Daddy will actually let you spend some time here with Poppa and I ALONE. (I think that by now an evening away probably sounds pretty good to them!)  That should be fun…and maybe a little bit scary (for me and Poppa :))  You see, we haven’t had a toddler around the house for a while. I am looking around the place every day now for trouble that you might get into.  Not on purpose, of course, but I am a bit of a worry-wart, so I want to make sure there is nothing around that can hurt you.

Also – we need to have some fun things for you to do here.  When we chat in the mornings you are very busy, so I know that we will need things to entertain you. I am hoping we can spend some time outside and use the pool that we bought you when you were here last summer. We will need to get a new ball and maybe a riding toy so that you can play out in the yard.  I am sure that Max and Moe will enjoy that, too – we will just have to keep them from popping the ball!

We want to take you to the park so that you can swim in the lake and maybe to Midway Park, where we can ride the train and the carousel.   Your Mama went there when she was little with her Grandparents. Of course we will go to the Parade up town on the 4th of July.  Village of Mayville Fourth of July FireworksIt will be fun to spend an American holiday with you (Don’t listen to your Daddy when he calls it “the day of Colonial aggression”, I know that he secretly enjoys it just as much as the rest of us!)  Maybe your parents will let you stay up late that night to watch the fireworks, too.  We will roast marshmallows out back and I am sure you will roll down the hill a time or two.

I have a pretty good feeling that right about now is when this grandparent/grandchild thing starts to get fun.  I am hoping that our morning Skype dates have made us familiar enough to you that you feel comfortable here.  I just can’t wait to hug and squeeze and tickle you. I am sure that this is just the beginning of many wonderful years of memories for us.Happy smiling baby in stroller

It’s going to be a long month of waiting…

See you soon!

Love and kisses,

Gram ❤

Life on the hill

photo (8)As I said in my “About” section, we live in my husband’s family home, Squirrel Hill.  I named the place when we moved in here in 1984.  I felt at that time that any good country home needed a name and this one fit the bill for many reasons.  There have been plenty of Squirrels on this hill for many years (both the furry brown kind, and the human ones as well).  As my children can surely attest, I have often said that you need to be a bit “off “to live up here.  I have had a love/hate relationship with the hill since I moved in.

When my in-laws bought the place in 1955 it had been uninhabited for several years.  It was in need of quite a bit of TLC, and has and will be the source of many handyman projects for years to come. It had a wonderful view of Chautauqua Lake, much like this and still does, although the trees keep growing each year and it is getting smaller and smaller.

Jim and I have raised three daughters here. They have now all grown and (almost) all of them have left us here. Our oldest is married and lives in England with her husband and our only grandchild.  The middle one has moved out to live the single life in Pittsburgh – just a short drive away for a weekend shopping trip!  Our youngest is a college student in Cleveland, Ohio, presently doing a semester abroad in England a few hours away from her older sis.

So here we are….my spouse of 30 years and our menagerie, living and dreaming up on the hill.  We have beautiful sunrises, aggravating winters and lovely summers.  The house  has has been here for over 50 years of our family’s growing and changing…from baby steps to graduation parties. From Summer 4th of July celebrations to Christmas mornings.

Follow along as we move into the next stages, and see what tomorrow will bring…