When I little and still in school, summer vacations meant one thing to my brother and I. Olean NY. We would count down the day until we left. We always drove and my Dad always drove straight through. A quick stop at Mickey D's and we were right back on the road. It's usually about an 8 hour trip from up here in New Hampshire. Mom and Dad always woke us up in the middle of the night to leave...well it felt like the middle of the night to me. I was six. It was probably more like 11:00 or 12:00. That way we would arrive right around breakfast time.
When we got a little older, after my parents split up, we went out for a couple weeks at a time. I can remember saying "I don't want to go, it's SO boring." but looking back...it was by far the BEST part of my summer vacations.
There wasn't really much to do there... Yes, there is a mall. Well I guess they call it a mall. Back then it was about 15 stores under one roof. Yes, there was a movie theater... but we weren't old enough to go ourselves and it wasn't something our grandparents ever took us to... a treat for us was going to McDonald's.
No, being in Olean was ALL about being outside. It was about feeding the cows next door, and playing with our cousins, Wendy and Nikki, who had come down from Alaska for the same weeks we were there. It was about building things in the shop with Gramps, and weeding the garden with Gram. It was about ice cream cones, and swimming in the pool. It was about laying your wet towel and your wet body down on the black top to warm up. It was about sitting upstairs in Uncle Bob's room, and looking at the posters of KISS and The Who. It was about picking raspberries right off the bush and rhubarb out of the ground. It was about going out to the garden before dinner to get everything you'd need... and washing it off with the hose before you came in the house. It was about building go-carts to race down the drive-way. It was about visiting friends we didn't know, but who ALWAYS knew our parents, because they grew up with them. It was about visiting the Utters on Cuba Lake, and Mr. Chinagins, and Mobile homes at the top of the hill where your cousins did your make-up. It was about being old enough to dive off the end of the dock and not off the side. It was about the keg-arator at the O'Keefe's and the parties they would have. When I KNEW I was related to EVERY SINGLE person there...but I couldn't have told you how... and I didn't care...because I knew they all loved me. It was about being little and watching them all play cards and knowing this family really really loved each other. It was about tubing and fishing and swimming. It was about waking up to peanut butter toast and chocolate milk EVER morning. It was about the old swing-set that squeaked the loudest squeak every time the swing went back... it was about the basketball hoop, that wasn't anywhere near regulation height, but was super fun to dunk. It was about feeding the cows next door...and NEVER getting tired of seeing them come down from the hill to graze. It was about being at Hill Top Park with my dad, hanging out for hours, eating lunch and getting to have a big Pepsi in the glass bottle. While he carved our names in the picnic bench. It was about open faced sandwiches and soggy bread and getting hit with the fly swatter when you were back talking. It was about MTV and YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON TELEVISION for the first time in my life. I wasn't me and that was OK. I was Ruthie's daughter, I was Frank and June's Granddaughter, I was Butch's kid, I was related to Bob Davies. I was one of the Lane's. I was a part of something bigger when I was there.
Those summer there were the BEST summers of my life. I have sat by and watched friend after friend lose their grandparents, while mine lived on. Lived on strongly. I was and I am so lucky to have had those times, those memories. When I think back on being a kid those are the times I think of. Those are the days I remember. I wish I had known then that they wouldn't last forever, I'd like to think I would have held onto them a little tighter.
My grandparents don't live in that house anymore. The house where my Grandmother was born, and raised her children. My kids had the chance to go to Olean a couple of summers before they sold that old white house with green shutters. They sat on the front steps, that I helped paint. They slept in the same room, in the same bed I slept in as a child, the same room, the same bed my mother slept in. They ran in the fields where their Uncle Jeff and I played for hours and hours. They swung on the swing, they picked those raspberries. I can't give my kids the memories I have of that wonderful place, but I am glad they got a chance to make some of their own.
We stopped going to Olean when we hit high school. Kids don't really want to go hang out with their Grandparents when they are a teenager. They want to be with their friends. More specifically we wanted to be where the BOYS were. All of the sudden my Grandparents were visiting us in the summers.
When I finally went back to Olean, as an adult, I can't get over how different it looked to me. The driveway, had always been so long and steep. Long and steep enough to catch some great speed on your bike. Why didn't it look long and steep now? The HUGE field when did it become so small? When did the barn go from being a big, dark scary place where Gramps was ALL DAY LONG, to just another barn full of stuff that had been collected and saved for another day? I'm a little sad that I had to see it through "adult eyes". In my head, in my memories... I choose to see it like I did when I was 7.
When we drove away from that wonderful old house for the last time, I cried. I cried like someone died. It was one of the saddest things I have ever done.
When I was growing up. We moved. A lot. We moved from base to base and we moved from house to house.
Riverside Dr was a constant. It didn't change. The color of the house was always the same. The yard was always the same. The people were the same. The smell when you walked in the door was always the same. The creek in the back steps was always the same. The way I felt there. It was always the same. The comfort I felt there is something I haven't felt anywhere else. I never lived there...but it was home. To me.
I still have family in Olean NY. I don't know if I will ever get back for a visit. I know if I do, I will go and see all the things that were Olean to me, The Castle,The Library Restaurant, St. Mary's Church, The red bard store,The Palace Movie Theater , Cuba Lake, Hill Top Park, Aunt Penny...but I don't know if I will drive by that house. That big wonderful house that holds all those memories for me. I think I have to leave it in my mind. Where it's still ours, and another family doesn't live there. I think if it had changed I would be devastated. In the safe spot in my head, it's still the same.
Just the way I like it.