Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
MY SUMMER AT A CANADIAN BEACH
A photo album on my dining room table was open to several photographs I’d used in a previous COMe article, Betcha’ Didn’t Know …I Once Was Part of a Bellows-Making Company.
Looking at the adjacent page I saw several photographs of myself (not selfies—we had simple cameras in the olden days, like the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye).
The photographs were black and white—no color photography back then. And, I must admit, the pictures were fuzzy. Not clear. Likely taken on a Kodak Brownie camera:
However, they recorded part of my history, a part which I had almost forgotten.
It was the summer of my 15th year. Because of the presence of three young children in my family, ages 3, 2, and 3 months, it was obvious to parents I was familiar with children. Furthermore, I’d accrued many hours babysitting experience.
I remember the woman sitting in our living room interviewing me, although I can’t describe her. She needed someone to care for her about 7-year-old daughter. The catch: I’d have to live in, because the job was at a Canadian cottage on Lake Erie. She must have been impressed with me, because before she left the house I had the job.
There are numerous things I recall about that summer.
Being on the lake, there was a beach. Looking back I wonder that a 15-year-old had charge of a child in the water, but I was able to swim and had taught a little swimming in high school. I took my charge, whose name I cannot remember so I’ll call her Olivia, to the beach every day.
Olivia was easy to care for. I don’t recall any problems.
However, there are other things I do recall.
Coming from a family of smokers, and living in a cottage with adults who smoked, it was natural I’d experiment. I’d occasionally take (OK, thieve) cigarettes that were in available throughout the cottage. I ultimately came to the conclusion I didn’t care for smoking. It smelled, left the smoker smelling, and it would cost me money later. All I could see were burning dollar signs every time I lit up a cigarette.
Another activity I busied myself with was ridding the place of spiders. Part of my job was to keep the cottage in order. I accepted the challenge of keeping it free of spiders, too. Like the song about eating worms: big ones, little ones, skinny ones, fat ones—I’m gonna kill them all. And so I tackled the job. Occasionally, after squishing one or two, I’d have to retreat. And I’m certain I didn’t make a dent in the spider population.
I really enjoyed the beach. Occasionally a friend would arrive by bus (my means of transportation too) and we went to the beach. The photos on the album page were taken on that beach.
A couple of years later, when I could still remember where the cottage was and how to get there, a group of kids I knew went there for a party. It was my last time there.
It was the only summer I spent on a beach since 1955, when I was plucked from my New England coastal roots and transplanted to Buffalo. In fact, my first visit to a New England beach was September 6, 1966, on my honeymoon that followed my September 3rd wedding. My husband Monte and I try to visit the coast every 2-3 years.
The photo album pictures reminded me of that summer, a season of child caretaking, swimming, solitude, and maturing.
It was a very good job, a very good summer. I’m thankful I have my few photographs. NOTE: This article was written in response to the June 23, 2015, WordPress writing prompt, Snapshot Stories. It asked writers to Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there. Tell us the story of that photo.