When I was twelve my parents thought it'd be a great idea to move my sister and I off Long Island and into Upstate New York. I was mortified. Our block had just been re-paved which meant a summer of premium rollerblading and bike riding. Well, this was not to be. Moving Upstate meant adjusting to "blue stone" pavement (aka rocks stuck in tar) and friends who lived miles away as opposed to just a few houses down. Not to mention I was being separated from my cousins who were more like siblings to me. There were all the promises of visiting often, however the reality was once a year for a weekend at most. Our new school was a fraction of the size of the school districts we'd attended. Our class size went from 500 to 32. I remember that my upstate NY cousin Nate was excited that a new girl was coming to the school because that meant a new prospect to date in the future. Too bad it was me. Boy was he disappointed. With a class size of 32, the pickings were slim. Talk about an adjustment. With summer quickly approaching I reflect back on this drastic change in my life and the stark contrasts between summers on Long Island and in Upstate New York.
Summers on Long Island meant bike rides to the L.I. bay and exploring the fire trails of Shirley, making hidden forts along their paths. We'd have picnics at Southhaven park feeding the ducks and horses and glorious days in the sun at Smith Point Beach. Not to mention tricycle races, tire-swing rides, and fireworks at my Grandparent's in Selden. There were double-dog dares to eat Penny's dog biscuits and to steal "raw" hotdogs before Grandpa got a chance to grill them. There was no such thing as entering a fellow neighborhood kid's backyard via the gate, it was customary to climb the fences (even if it meant a scolding from Uncle Bill). The ice cream man came around multiple times a day without fail and the chocolate ices were to die for. There were softball games with Uncle Donald, pool parties in his back yard, and little league games at the high school fields. My cousins and I had devised a way to catch and throw bees without getting stung and we had overcome a rivalry with the dreaded Kenny Coojay. There wasn't a day when we went inside before 8pm and likewise there wasn't a day when my mother wasn't complaining about how filthy I'd gotten. But those are the days I look back on fondly because they were packed to the brim with fun and excitement.
As I quickly found out, the summers in Upstate could be just as fun. We spent many a day at Glimmerglass State Park and the Schenevus Lake. The lakes weren't quite as thrilling as the salt water waves of Smith Point, but the likelihood of being eaten by a shark was now reduced to nothing and for that I was relieved as the Jaws series was quite popular back then. My sister Jessie and I would meander over to the neighbors farm to help feed the calves which seemed like such a novelty to us "city kids". We'd also play cops and robbers, "war" in the woods by the Spencer's house, and we would ride our bikes in the local bike-a-thon. There were still little league games to attend and because the local schools were so small both boys and girls could participate until the ripe old age of thirteen. There wasn't an ice cream man however, but we could go to Stewarts Shoppe or Joanie's Country Store for a cold treat. There weren't parks with ducks and horses to visit for picnics, but we could walk downtown in Cooperstown to feed the ducks and watch the sailboats. There was no option of rollerblading on the "blue stone" without road rash, but for $5 we could enjoy an afternoon of rollerskating at Interskate 88 in the air conditioning if Mom was willing to drive the half hour to get us there.
I often wonder how different things would be if we hadn't moved, but then I might not be where I am today. I met my husband in that small school and have many lifelong friends from there as well. There were less instances of violence in our high school than those of downstate. Family values were still upheld in our small community. Less broken homes, less cases of drug abuse, less chances to get into trouble. Because it was such a small town news would surely travel back to our parents and for that some might even have consider us sheltered. All in all I guess it wasn't so bad growing up "country" and I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything.