I grew up in a very small town in upstate New York. The town had zero tourist attractions, so unless you knew someone, it was not a town you would be inclined to visit. After living in real tourist locations like Charleston, South Carolina, and Portland, Maine, I find it interesting when I recall the unrelated guests we had in our home when I was growing up.

First there was Agnes, from Brooklyn. She came to our home in the late ’50s as a “Fresh Air” child. If you aren’t from New York state, you may not be familiar with Fresh Air kids. It was a program where the state sent children from New York City upstate to hosting families for summer vacation. Agnes enjoyed her time with us so much that her parents made a trip to meet us.

That was just the beginning! For many summers not only would Agnes arrive for the summer but so did Nan, her mom. And then George would arrive for his two-week vacation. Nan and George were originally from Scotland and retained their heavy accents. Nan was full of fun and energy, providing us with much laughter.

Then, in the early ’60s, we met Barbara and Vern when vacationing at a small hotel in the Adirondacks. More accents.  Barbara grew up in England; Vern, in Germany. They lived in Toronto. The friendships grew and we became their “U.S. family.” They would come over every summer for their two-week vacation and for many long weekend visits.

When Barbara and Vern had visiting guests in Toronto, they would often bring their guests to our home: Vern’s sister from Germany (she could not speak English), and many of Barb’s relatives from England. I remember one time when Barbara’s father was visiting, and Nan and George arrived at the same time with a sibling and spouse. One of our neighbors said it was like the United Nations visiting with the array of accents in our house!

When I think back, I find it so interesting that my parents opened our home for extended periods of time to strangers who became lifelong friends. Like I said, the town wasn’t a tourist draw, so it had to be my parents’ hospitality that brought them all back for so many visits. And the exposure to people from other countries, currently living in big cities, was great for us. So different from our quiet lives!

Barbara is the only one still alive today. We talk often and laugh over our shared, treasured memories.

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