Blogging recently about my dad and his Liberty, NY childhood, I thought of a writing workshop I took years ago. (See My Dad, Dec 21, 2013)
One of our workshop prompts was to write about a place our heart remembers and I thought of my grandmother’s hotel on the Neversink Road in Liberty where I too spent childhood summers.
When I was 11 my grandmother was no longer able to run the hotel and had to sell it. Years later when the Catskills were no longer fashionable, we heard that a developer took over the land and the main building was razed to the ground. But my heart remembers everything just as it was those long-ago childhood summers, and so I wrote this for the workshop in my child’s voice.
“At my grandma’s hotel we have a hill and I can roll down all the way to the lake. And we have a dock and we have four rowboats, and they have their names on them. My mother painted the names and one rowboat has my name, DANA!
And there’s a waterfall where the lake gets very small and goes underneath the Neversink Road into the woods. And at the other end of the lake there’s a special place – the swamp where the big snapping turtles are. Sometimes my father takes me there in the rowboat and we sneak up on an old turtle if he is sleeping on a rock and if I’m very careful my father lets me tap old Mister Turtle very gently with my oar!
And at my grandma’s hotel a favorite place to hide is underneath the porch. No one can see me there, but I can hear the people talking and if it’s before the time to eat I can hear the waiters inside the dining room setting up the tables and the tinkly noise of the glasses and the plates and the spoons.
Then when it’s the time to eat my grandma goes on the porch and rings the big dinner bell to tell the people to come, and all the grown-ups come to the dining room. And all the kids come too and we run to the children’s dining room in back of the big dining room. It’s noisy in the children’s dining room but no one makes us be quiet so it’s fun.
My grandma has a cook and a salad man and a baker and a dishwasher man, but sometimes they quit or they get drunk or my grandma has to fire them and then my grandma is the real cook. And sometimes my grandma is the real baker too and she makes apple strudel for the dessert. She has a big special table to roll out the dough and guess who she says is her very best helper? It’s ME!”
Dana Susan Lehrman