“Do you camp up there?” people ask when I tell them I’m going on our annual family vacation to Lake George. “Far from it,” I say. “Picture Dirty Dancing. The same ten families come the same week every year to the same place.” “Is there a dance instructor?” they ask, referring to Patrick Swayze’s character in the movie. “No…but they do have boat boys.” I then have to explain what a “boat boy” is: basically college kids on summer break who take us out sailing or water skiing. People think a place like this just exists in the movies. I go on. “They ring a bell for meals and we all go up to the Main Lodge. They serve three meals a day.” “Really?” people ask. Really.
There was a time I hated this place. It coincided with a time in my teenage life when I hated just about everything – including the way I looked in a swimsuit. Therefore, a vacation on a lake was not my idea of fun. Thankfully, they had a piano. That was my solace. I’d bring enough piano music to fill the bench and when I got bored of reading or sailing, I’d head up to the piano. It sits in a room right outside the entrance to the dining room. In the afternoons when I would practice, the place was empty. But it became my own little tradition for quite a few years to play the hour before dinner. My father would sit on a couch behind me and engage anyone who came in in conversation. This was my only rule. You had to pretend like you weren’t listening – otherwise I’d get nervous. Dad was there to explain the rule and keep the conversations going.
Then, the bell would ring. I’d finish my piece, put my music back in the bench, and close the piano. Then, I’d join the procession into the dining room. And sit down to a four course meal with the same people I’ve eaten with the last week in June nearly every year of my life.
The tradition continues. Though my fingers hardly touch the keys of my piano at home anymore, I still bring my music to Canoe Island Lodge. And perhaps tonight, I’ll entertain dear family friends for a few minutes before dinner. But only if they pretend they’re not listening.