Today is my little brother's birthday. He's retiring this year, and entering into his geezer-hood and hopefully a little more relaxed rest of his life.
My brother is 5 years younger than I am. When we first shared a bedroom in that apartment building I wrote about the other day, the difference in age didn't seem to be that big a deal. It wasn't until I got to be a "big kid" that it pushed us into different worlds under the same roof. Sometimes in those early days we'd lie in the dark and not go to sleep, preferring to talk about important stuff like what we wanted for Christmas, or that evening's episode of "Superman".
On weekends during the summer, our family would pack the coolers and picnic baskets, and join uncles, cousins and Gram (who lived with us from the time Grampa died until she passed away). We'd drive up the Mohawk Trail, and find an empty table in the thick woods that grew along the Cold River (a body of water that lived up to its name, even during the hottest days of the year).
While the adults were putting out the food and lighting the fire for hot dogs, we'd head for the water. Not the big, dammed-up Official Park Swimming Area, though. We stepped from stone to rock to log along the rushing water, till we came to "The Deep Spot" in the stream. It was probably about 10 feet around, and 6 or 7 feet deep, and there was a huge boulder from which the truly brave would jump, provided no grownups were watching.
I remember learning to open my eyes under water there, so I could watch the fish that hid between the rocks. We probably spent more time out of the water than in it, soaking up the sun and recovering from the plunge into that swift-moving snow melt.
Before long, our stomachs told us it was time to head back to the table, and we shivered our way back along the rocks and logs. We ate...lots of food, played badminton, (which I believed for some time to be the game of bad mitten), and sometimes horse shoes. We had a set of rubber horse shoes, which my mother bought for our safety. They were red and green and came with a pair of wooden stakes.
Finally, the mosquitoes would come out and remind us it was time to go.
Then there was vacation. Dad got 2 weeks off every summer from his job at G.E. We rented a cabin at the edge of a pond in a tiny town along the Mohawk Trail, much further east than the picnic grounds. A rowboat came with the cabin, and Dad would take my brother and me out in it bright and early, when the perch were biting and the air was frosty.
We had prepared for the trip by collecting as many "night crawlers" as we could find, placing the fat worms in a container of dirt, which was lodged carefully in its place in the trunk.
Warning: The following may be horrifying if you are an earthworm, or member of PETA...
We had a pair of metal rods attached to a long electric cord. We'd stick the rods into the front lawn, then plug them into an outlet through the front window. Up they'd come out of the ground: Lots of night crawlers. All we wanted. We'd feed them some oatmeal to make them feel better after their abrupt relocation.
So there we were in the middle of the pond, and pretty soon breakfast was in the boat, wriggling around in the creel. We caught and ate many a perch on those trips. We also caught some bluegills...better known to us kids as "pumpkin seeds" because that's what they were shaped like. They weren't very good to eat, but we'd take them home and put them in the garden (everybody had a garden in those days) where they produced some really tasty tomatoes.
I remember the four of us sitting in the cabin, enjoying our catch. I'm sure there are many things about those days I can't recall any more, but those pictures were the ones that came to mind as I put my brother's birthday card into the mailbox today, then sent him an email when I realized it wouldn't make it in time.
Happy Birthday, young Geez. Many happy returns.
Blog at ya later,