Monday, May 12, 2008

Rollin’ Down the River, By Sue Kinsella

I was 10 years old when my family drove to Connecticut to play Huck Finn with Aunt Doris’ family. They had faced a dilemma that summer when they learned that their new Navy housing wouldn’t be ready until September. Their solution? They set up camp for the summer on the banks of the Quinebaug River (pronounced “kwinna-bog”). I thought it was an awesome idea!

The camp provided a huge outdoor living space, with tents and tarps for sleeping quarters, privacy and shade. Dishes and cooking utensils were often a bit chipped or dented because they came from scrounging trips to the nearby dump. There was a huge “swimming pool” always available out front so we lived in our bathing suits and swam in the river all day long.

My family had just moved the summer before to our big house on St. Paul Blvd. in Rochester, and one of its features my mother loved most was the big pantry running along almost the whole back side of the kitchen. It had lots of china cabinets, cupboards, drawers, bins for flour and potatoes, plenty of counter space, a milk delivery door and even an old ice delivery door. Aunt Doris had heard just about enough about this magnificent pantry, thank you very much. So she took every opportunity to proudly point out to her sister that SHE had a pan-tree as well – a tree with nails in it on which she hung her pans!

She needn’t have worried about competition. All summer long, she was royalty, crowned as the Queen of the Quinebaug.

This was also the occasion when Dad and Uncle Bud stayed up all night to watch the fire log burn through. Apparently, this had been a goal of Uncle Bud’s for quite a while. My Dad might have seen the moment when the log collapsed into the fire. But that was the unfortunate moment when Uncle Bud chose to look down to find a good spot to set down his beer. For him, the quest would have to continue!

We spent several magical days camping out at the Hawkes’ airy mansion by the river. I thought it was terrifically exciting. I loved being with my cousins, and I thought that Aunt Doris and Uncle Bud were brilliant to come up with such a wonderful adventure. True, I was a little kid who didn’t have to handle any responsibilities. But it looked to me like the adults were having a grand time, too. I’ve always remembered that experience as an example of how little it can take to create idyllic days, if you have a great imagination.

Picture One: Hawkes Camp on the Quinebaug River

Picture Two: Hawkes Camp on the Quinebaug River

Picture Three: The Pan-Tree, along with Tom Kinsella, Cindy Hawkes, Aunt CB, Tim Kinsella (facing away), Steve Hawkes, Aunt Doris, Mick Hawkes

Picture Four: Steve, Mick, Cindy, and Charlie Hawkes with Aunt Doris, Queen of the Quinebaug

Picture Five: Dan Kinsella and Cindy Hawkes with the Pan-Tree


Anonymous said...

That was a really fun trip!! I think we left Beth at Grandma kinsella's and we had a ball!! In fact I loved Doris' pantree so much that I tried to duplicate it at the cottage in the kitchen where I hang my pans on the wall!! Not nearly as good but a reminder!! That was also the year that Steve cut the heel off one of his feet while scrounging in that dump next door!!! And that was where they found the "sofa" that was near the firepit, an old car seat!!! CB

Anonymous said...

Wow - I am amazed at the creative things our parents and grandparents did.

Could any of use do as well? We would probably need a permit and a vote of congress :)


tim k said...

I recall this trip also although I was very young as you can see. I clearly rember the beach property and I think I even went to the infamous dump where Steve cut his foot. I also remember thinking this is the coolest place to live on earth.

Julie said...

It is funny what we remember. Our family made the jaunt to the camp on the Quinnebog, too. I clearly remember it being one of the best times of my youth. But I alway thought that Steve had lost his heel while wading around in the sandy river in an spot he and my brothers had played in just a week or two prior to the accident--either by a snapping turtle or a piece of glass. No one ever really knew for sure.
I also remember Aunt Dot chasing my brothers around so she could corner them and pinch their zits. She had a technique, and this was one of her favorite pasttimes.
Wierd what we remember, isn't it?