Every summer we went to the lake—four kids under the age of eight piled in the backseat, bickering about whose turn it was to sit by the window and threatening each other with Indian rope burns for the entire six-hour drive as my father grimly piloted the Buick. When we made that final turn and saw the cottage framed by tall pines, my mother always said, "Well, thank Christ" fervently (explosively, really) in a way I thought was overkill. Until I had children.
When my girls were small--three kids under the age of nine-- we went every year to the Adirondacks, where we stayed at a rich man's 19th century hunting camp that had been turned into a lovably scruffy resort called The Hedges. It was the sort of place where cabins had names (ours was called "The Coop"), and there were rocking chairs on the porch at the lodge, jigsaw puzzles and cold soda in the office, and tetherball on the lawn. The family that had owned the place since 1972 served two meals a day at long tables in the dining room—and you could order $5 sack lunches, too, to take on a canoe trip. Thank Christ.
Above: I think now that going to the lake each year may have saved my sanity, and my mother's, during those endless, exhausting years when the children were small and it seemed unlikely the adults would ever again go to a movie or read a book. Everything was different at the lake -- time was infinite and lazy, and we barely saw the children except at meals or when they needed an adult to quell an Indian rope burn attack. Image via Trip Advisor.
Above: The highlight of the week was the ring toss contest, for which our friends' son Gabe practiced for hours every evening. The year Gabe was eight, or maybe nine, he would have won, except for a persnickety older gentleman we nicknamed the Silk Assassin. Every year—all the guests at the Hedges seemed to return faithfully, by the way—the Silk Assassin would smoothly knock off all comers. Image via Trip Advisor.
Above: In those years, the food at the Hedges was very bad—the menu was a marvel of parsimonious high-WASP frugality, featuring such entrees as pressed turkey and canned corn niblets—but the old hunting lodges were faithfully preserved and maintained in a style the Palm Beach Post once described as "rustically elegant lakeside resort." Then, about 10 years ago, The Hedges changed owners; the last time we were there, the food was far better and the decor had veered toward dried-flower centerpieces.
Above: When it rained—two or three days a week, on average, every August—we all piled into cars and headed to Long Lake, to watch for seaplanes and to shop at Hoss's, which is hands-down the best variety store in America. We bought wool blankets and artists' watercolor paint sets and bird guides and maple candy and balsa wood airplane kits and tiny flashlights and trucker hats. Image by Anna Liisa, via Flickr.
Above: Canoes for rent from Blue Mountain Lake Livery. Image via Suzanne Kelleher, via Flickr.
Above: At night, the kids played horseshoes, or flashlight tag, and the rest of us settled back into the same chairs where we'd spent the afternoon reading Trollope or Turow, to watch the night settle over the lake, the lake, the constant lake. Image via Trip Advisor.