Friday, July 12, 2013

off the map

i knew a place once; it was wondrous, magical for me, which was most likely enhanced by my youth, but i think if i still knew it today it'd hold the same intrigue.

it was a little Pocono cabin in a concealed corner of the planet more often than not run over with snow, for we only ever frequented it in the winter; it belonged to my grandfather who had in fact built it up himself, rock to wall, as a haven for family and friends of family and their children and sometimes pets. 

no one really could tell what town it was in, but i'm pretty sure it was somewhere between White Haven and Blakeslee, Carbon County, Kidder Township or something. the exact blip on the map was irrelevant; people went there to escape, not to be found.

the street was private, a small development but not like the overdone ones in the Philadelphia suburbs. it was nearly hidden from view just off the exit, past the Ramada and that little restaurant that kept changing every year to something new and odd-sounding like The Fern, as if that would make me want to eat there. down the street from Jack Frost and Big Boulder, the two biggest ski resorts around. adjacent the dam that i so loved to explore but couldn't ever get to because the roads were flooded, as the signs had warned they would be.

so many years i have to remember there.

there was the time when Howard and Kat's dog jumped on my brother when we were kids in the middle of the night and he screamed bloody murder out of fright. then the next day he and i were poking around the bedroom and we found a trapdoor to the basement beneath the floorboards, but it was too dark and cold to bother exploring. we still reveled in the fact that we'd found it, our own paradise lost.

sometimes i got to sleep in the bigger guest room when Howard and Kat weren't up and i felt like a rightful queen with the king-sized bed and the private bathroom with two chambers and the full closets and nightstands with random items in their drawers. i loved that i could stand in the kitchen and the living room at the same time and that we could watch television while we ate, a luxury we never had at home. the fireplace was always roaring and my father delighted in stoking it every half hour or so, a nervous habit.

Mom never came to Big Boulder with us; she wasn't much of an outdoor person. she'd catch up on her reading and Dad would take Tom and i to ski or snow tube, whichever we preferred (and i hated skiing). one time when my cousins were up for the weekend with us we all went tubing (little effort for the fun). Joe went off-course and slammed into a tree but he was fine and it led to uproarious laughter. my dad and his brother and nephews wanted to make it over the big snowbank at the bottom. it was a frigid night and everything was icing over -- just the momentum they needed. they hopped in double-rider tubes and got running starts and raced in adjacent lanes on the way down. and over the top they did go as onlookers stared in awe at a feat not many had accomplished.

i remember watching the Daytona 500 on or around Dad's birthday the year Dale Earnhardt crashed into the wall; we all thought he'd be OK, that it hadn't looked life-threatening on screen. he died, though. i vowed to support his son from then on although i didn't follow NASCAR that closely to begin with.

the stone driveway at the cabin, when it wasn't ridden with knee-deep snow, was littered with daddy-long-legs and garter snakes and behind the house were woods with trails as far as the eye could see and i never knew where any of them went.

the thing about living on a private street in the mountains is that when it snows there are natural sledding hills all around you. i was always a bit of a wimp when it came time to do it but the sleds were unsturdy and i didn't know how to steer them and i was afraid of crashing into frozen snowbanks and breaking my arm or worse. but it was good bonding time with my brother.

i always liked when it wasn't that snowy and i could walk down to the private lake -- the one reserved for residents on the private street -- and walk the trail around it where wild blueberries grew; my mother and i would pick them and put them in pancakes the next morning.

there was so much i adored about that little cabin off the map in Pennsylvania and there's so much i miss about it now. before he died my grandfather sold it to a stranger. with it went the magic of my old haven that i would never have again. my heart aches to know that someone else -- and a slew of renters to follow -- is now enjoying my grandfather's handmade refuge and all the wonder it contains.

they will never be able to appreciate it like i have.


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