Whenever anyone asks me "Where do you go on vacation?" I reply "A small lake community in the mountains of Pennsylvania." I keep it vague for two reasons. One, because no one would recognize the formal name, the way they would "Disney" or "Outer Banks" or any rendition of "The Beach," and two, because it has been a "best kept secret." This place is held dear from generation to generation of those who spend a lifetime of summers there. It is a small, insular, loyal community. It is, in fact, more of a neighborhood than a transient tourist spot.
Quiet, simple, serene, natural, respectful, it is almost a throw back to the "Leave It To Beaver" times. With our lives being so hectic and crazy, this pace is necessary for our souls to recover if only for 14 glorious days of suspended animation in our endless mountains.
Because this vacation spot is unfamiliar to most everyone I know, the next question is usually "What do you do there?"
"Nothing" I sigh blissfully.
"Nothing" I sigh blissfully.
It is difficult to describe what people do on top of a mountain in a tiny town that has not a single grocery store, pizza parlour, arcade, movie theatre, shopping outlet, fast food chain, or good cell phone reception. In a place where the "downtown" boasts only a quaint ice cream shop, a used bookstore, a post office, a tiny shop for sundries and a small art gallery. Where the hot spot during the day is a three-mile, sand bottom lake without a boardwalk, but with sailing, canoeing and floating docks.
What do we do here? Actually, this vacation is less about doing and more about "being." One day during our first week here I was invited with a small group of women to do morning yoga on the floating boat dock. I ran a mile to the dock, did an hour of relaxing yoga, and ran a mile back to our house. As I stretched and posed in the sun, hearing the water lapping against the pier and the birds chirping, I realized that our vacation is very much like some yoga poses appear. Doing nothing and everything. Being present and mindful, while being truly relaxed in body and mind.
Yet unlike yoga or other meditative types of retreats, we are doing it together as a family. There is really no other time throughout the year that we spend such quality family time together.
We go to the lake during the day.
We go on hiking trails and discover mosses and hidden waterfalls, collecting prizes like acorns and rocks.
Contemplating a caterpillar munching on milkweed and watching dragon flies buzzing around the lily pads.
All three meals are eaten together at the table, starting with grace and ending with conversation. The T.V. stays off and the books and board games and cards come out.
A big treat is a scoop of ice cream down at Ye Ole Sweet Shop, a 1/2 mile walk away, or making s'mores over one of the outdoor fire pits. After the kids are down for the night, the grown ups drink wine, play Gin Rummy or read in front of the fire. The girls, my three littlest and their 11 year old cousin who comes with us, all pile in one room. At home in New Jersey they all have their own rooms but they love sleeping cuddled up together here.
We take one traditional "big outing" which involves driving an hour to an old, throw-back amusement park called Knoebels. It is inexpensive, nostalgic, easy to manage, and the big excitement of our two week trip.
The best part about this amusement park is seeing the girl's personalities come out. Pink went on literally 2 rides. She is our cautious mother-hen who wants her feet firmly planted on the ground. She rode the teacups with her sisters and cousins and I could hear her dithering "Okay, everyone, hold on tight to the wheel in the middle!" as she white-knuckled it with a brave face. Then there was Rella who at 3 has no concept of danger. The only thing stopping her from thrill seeking was the height requirement.
And five year old Tink? My little itty-bitty pixie who screams at a bug... breaks down a cries at the sight of a single microscopic drop of blood... needs therapy over any little tiny change... cries hysterically at the thought of going to college away from home? She's ironically our adrenalin junkie.
There she is, somewhere up there on the Italian Trapeze, as I stood below with my heart literally in my mouth having a panic attack. I was waiting for her to come flying down and crack her head like a coconut. I stood and smiled and waved and secretly wished the cotton candy stand sold Xanax.
So, what do we do on our vacation? We do together. We enjoy each other's company in a picturesque setting. We hike, we read, we take family walks, we explore. We wind down. We fuel up. We breathe. We simply be.