I had the good fortune to grow up in a family that owned a summer house on a lake about two hours from our home. Once school was out in June, we would all load up into the station wagon and head north. There was something so blissful about turning off the highway and suddenly seeing familiar houses, roads, and even cemeteries. The first one who spotted the lake through the trees would cry out in delight. And a little while later we’d be heading down, down, down our very steep driveway to the oddly modern and uncottagelike building my parents had commissioned when I was an infant.
My mom and the kids stayed all summer; my father would leave early Monday morning, work all week back in Boston, then drive back Friday night for the weekends. During the summer he really only slept well in the mountains, by the lake, where the air mostly stayed cool, so he took off whatever time he could and invited everyone he knew to come spend the day or the weekend with us there. The house was always full, my mother planning, shopping for, and preparing meal after meal after meal for what could be dozens of guests on any given weekend. I can’t imagine how much work it was for her: there wasn’t any take-out in that small town back in those days, and for decades there also wasn’t a dishwasher in the house, unless you counted the five kids.
There also wasn’t a TV in the house. Years later, my father would give in and get a tiny TV set–mostly so he could watch tennis matches on it–but for the first decade or so, all we had was a radio that played kids’ programs on Sunday mornings.
Five kids, two and a half months, many rainy days . . . what was a mother to do?
Go to a library, of course. Once a week we’d all pile into the car, drive to the town library and emerge with our arms filled with piles of books. And for the next seven days, when we weren’t outside swimming or catching frogs or playing in our sandy driveway (just right for digging tunnels), we were draped over various pieces of furniture, reading. Read the rest of this entry »