There are things that people do on vacation, things they never do any other time of the year. Last week I joined my large extended family of about 14 other people ranging from age three to 85 on a lake in Pennsylvania’s Endless mountains. Maybe we never do these things because we don’t have enough people to make up the teams. Or maybe nobody ever thought they’d be as fun as they end up being.
We set up a field and we played kickball. My mother, 80, ran the bases like a champ. My dad, 85, cheered her on, and got his own double too!
A few nights we retired to the cavernous parlor of the house called Altamont and played charades. Teams of seven made it easy to come up with both clues and solving the answers. Some times I wished for harder clues, like the ones I submitted–The Unbearable Lightness of Being–or one that stumped me, the song Kumbayah. How do you act that one out?
We filled up water balloons and then tossed them back and forth over a line made up of swimming pool noodles. We got further and further back until finally, each of them exploded and we cried out with joy and dismay. We got wet but who cared–it was 90 degrees. We ran relay races holding eggs on spoons. No one really kept score. We watched my two grandkids 3 and 7 play soccer with their teenaged cousins, listening with delight as their moves and goals were cheered by their elders.
We walked through the woods in long lines, with my elderly parents leading the way, the one-mile woods walk led to the bathing beach of Eagles Mere Lake. At the lake we dove into the clear water that ‘s 2000 feet up…a mountain lake without the annoyance of motor boats or jetskis…just a lot of Sunfish and kayaks people were paddling and sailing about. The only motor vessel is the “Hardly Able,” an old navy motor launch from 1919 that ferries vacationers from the nearby dock to the bathing beach.
One night we decided to play capture the flag. We set up flags and created teams of six….I never knew what adrenaline felt like until I tried to steal the flag out from under someone’s legs and tried to escape to my side. I was pursued and tagged by my speedy grandson, and promptly put in prison. After a while the adults grew tired of all of this fast-running and adrenaline and decided that this game wasn’t intended to be played after cocktails and a big chicken dinner.
Every night we swapped cooking duties, so there was only one night each that we weren’t waited on and served by our siblings. On our night Mary and I made chicken enchiladas and we basked in the praise that came all the way from the finicky kids’ table. Nathan proclaimed that our meal was “The best he’d ever eaten!!” Other nights served us up local corn, baby back ribs, crisp roasted chicken. We realized halfway through that serving a crowd of 17 is definitely a good time to use paper plates.
We spend a lot of time out on the back porch, lounging on comfy couches and glancing now and then at kayakers or sailboats passing by on the lake. In the corner of the porch was a spider’s web and we named her Charlotte as we admired her nightly handiwork. We read books and the kids swung on a porch swing. There was no wifi so we could only use our phones for taking pictures or movies, or showing each other our photos.
When I woke up, I never thought about what I’d wear, just slip on this same pair of shorts and a tee shirt. Shaving too, became pretty much optional. With teenaged nephews, I perfected my frisbee techniques. I finished a book about traveling in Siberia that I’ve been reading for ages. I checked email once in a while by walking down to the museum, but I didn’t spend that much time and was happy to have told everyone that I’m gone on vacation. To me this is what the definition of the word means.