July 14, 2013

Maine Observer: Life at the lakehouse still a simple affair

Sweatpants and a T-shirt (adult pajamas) are still the perfect uniform for knocking around at camp.

By Cheryl Stitham White

Growing up on a Maine lake in the '50s and '60s was quite special. We had no iPads, no iPhones, no e-books and at my camp, not even television. We had these strange things called "board games."

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There was Clue, where you could be Miss Scarlet or Professor Plum. There was Monopoly, where you could risk everything on Park Place or Boardwalk. I will always bless my mother, who let my sister and me have a game of Monopoly laid out in the living room that lasted two weeks. Every time I wanted to quit, she'd loan me money (and she still beat me).

If you didn't like board games, you could always play canasta or Flinch or cribbage or Scat. But even without phones or text messaging, you connected with your friends.

I remember one August morning when I was in high school. I looked out at our dock and saw a small boat arriving. One of my very best friends, Kris, her neighbor Bob (who later became my husband) and his cousin Ed all were aboard.

I hastily threw on a sweatshirt over my pajamas and greeted them on the dock. They. too, were in their pajamas and sweatshirts. They tied up and we chatted and planned out where to meet for water-skiing or some other lakeside pleasure.

We didn't worry about our clothing, or the fact that we didn't have an iPhone or iPad or the Internet. We didn't worry that our pajamas weren't from J. Jill or The Gap. For heaven's sake, they were just pajamas, and we all threw on the closest sweatshirt we could find.

I thought about that this afternoon, 50 years later at the same camp and the same dock. This morning, I had dressed quickly in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt to go for my morning walk. Not quite like an adolescent's pajamas, but pretty close.

It started to rain as I headed down the road, so I retreated back to our camp and read the paper and did morning chores. It was chilly, so I found a pink sweatshirt. Then later my husband and I decided to clean out the shed. Then we cleaned out the daylily bed and had lunch and then, of course, a nap.

Much later that afternoon, the sun came out and showered the lake with silver paths and golden clouds. My husband suggested a boat ride.

As I hopped into our 14-foot 1961 cruiser with its quite old small engine, I realized that I had never changed my clothes. I was still in my sweatpants (adult pajamas) with my sweatshirt. What if someone asks us to stop ...? What if we see someone we know ...?

And then I caught my breath and remembered: I'm at camp. I can wear my pajamas with a sweatshirt. I'm on a lake in Maine. All is well.

Cheryl Stitham White is a resident of South Portland.

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