Book Excerpt: Childhood Adventures

We wriggled into our swimsuits and laced up our sneakers. Mom slathered on us the same Coppertone baby sunscreen I use today on my sensitive skin. Kristen, my cousin Chris, and I skipped down the dirt road to the bank of mail boxes, off on our childhood adventures. Mom and Uncle Alan trailed behind. We waited for them to catch up.

Childhood Adventures

Kristen and I usually played in this tiny grove of trees when we walked down to get the mail. Sometimes Freddie from the trailer across the cul-de-sac would join us. I was obsessed with archeology and we’d often look for dinosaur bones, pottery artifacts, and Roman coins beneath rocks, the raspberry bushes, and those bushes whose flowers shot their insides at us when we touched them. All we found were ants, garter snakes, and toads. There was a twenty foot trail that led back from the rural metal mail boxes and cherry red Ithaca Journal newspaper boxes, through overgrown raspberry bushes to the creek, which flowed eight miles north into the West Branch Cayuga Inlet of Cayuga Lake.

New York State Parks

The state parks around Cayuga Lake – Taughannock Falls, Robert H. Treman, Buttermilk Falls, and the eponymous Cayuga Lake State Park – served as the backdrop to our summer vacations. Mom packed a picnic basket with grapes, Wheat Thins, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and water, loaded us into the Ford Tempo, and off we went for a day of swimming in lake or in the natural pools at the bottom of waterfalls. We huffed our way up the trails above each park’s falls, admiring the walls of crumbling slate that created the gorges the Ithaca area is known for. Dad joined us in the afternoon after teaching summer school math. Sometimes if we had time to go further afield we would drive up Route 89 to the Seaway Trail and on to Fair Haven Beach State Park to swim in sandy Lake Ontario or we’d head south to Watkins Glen State Park where Dad was once mistaken for Mike Ditka, the famous Chicago Bears’ coach of the 1980s. Just as often we stayed at home to play in our yard or explore the creek.

“Our” Creek

We three kids splashed into the creek and Mom and Uncle Alan eased in after us. While brother and sister both grew up in the Bronx, Mom embraced the rural life we lived. Uncle Alan who now lived in a suburb of Philadelphia looked a little uncomfortable using the creek as our hiking trail.

“Look at those lily white feet,” Mom laughed.

Once in the creek and with somewhat stable footing, we surveyed what lay ahead of us. Smooth rock tops dotted the way and the water scrambled around them and us, splashing our shins. We stopped to examine minnows swimming in quieter pools along the shore. We ate wild raspberries, their tartness tickling the spot beneath our tongues at the back of our jaws. The sound of big water began to drown out the drone of the cicadas. Uncle Alan raised an eyebrow at Mom.

“Our” Waterfall

We rounded the bend and our own private waterfall appeared. It sat behind our trailer but the spring rains had washed out the trail that wound through the forest from our shed. It probably wasn’t ours but no one else seemed to venture back, to use its large shelf as a stage, to use its slope as a water slide. Their loss. Today my sister, cousin, and I created a new Broadway show, belting out off-pitch tunes over the rush of water behind us.

After about an hour, our lips were blue and our teeth chattered. Mom and Uncle Alan shepherded us back down the creek to our overgrown trail at the mailboxes. We raced back up the hill to our trailer, laughing and out of breath and warm again.

I’m writing a career change memoir and I’d love your feedback as I post small ~300 word blurbs. What do you want to know more about? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? Comment below or e-mail me.

2 Responses to “Book Excerpt: Childhood Adventures

  • I’m really enjoying this so far! Nature immersion in local settings was a significant part of my childhood and current experience. I enjoy reading about other’s experiences finding connection with the natural world. Keep up the good work!

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