Let’s make a movie in our minds! It’s the early 1970s. Imagine the excitement of a family from southern Pennsylvania packing to go on a vacation to their favorite spot … a cabin in the northern mountains of their state. They load the station wagon with sleeping bags, stuffed suitcases, filled coolers, sleepy children, and slobbering dogs. And they’re off!
Along the Susquehanna River, they meet a group of family members also going to this vacation spot and make a convoy of sorts. They head up Route 15, drive through Williamsport (home of the Little League Baseball Museum today, but not then), and take another highway.
Finally, they turn onto the forested Route 287. Watching closely for white-tailed deer crossing the roads, they navigate curves, the three-mile hill, and the two-mile hill. Up ahead, they see the sign for the town of Morris, home of the Annual Morris Rattlesnake Round-Up. (Shiver!!) Time to break for lunch!
Now, let’s pause the movie and set the scene for the next part. Just outside of town, a pine-covered picnic glade sits off the road on the right, a perfect place to let dogs out to do their business, let restless children out to run, and let parents and grandparents have a break from the constant refrain of “Are we there yet?”
Break out grandmother’s wicker picnic basket and unload the red and white checkered tablecloth, the sectioned plastic plates, and the gem-colored metallic tumblers. Haul out the Styrofoam and Coleman coolers full of sandwich materials, condiments (“Did you remember the catsup this time?”), potato and macaroni salads, chips, pretzels, and of course, home-baked cookies.
Wait! Don’t forget Nanny’s iced tea, the kind with the little bits of lemonade pulp! One gulp and the weariness of the trip washes away.
Everyone loads up their plates, and some sit at the picnic tables, others on green and white webbed lawn chairs. Kids gobble their food as quickly as possible to go play by the creek.
Ah, the creek … the pièce de résistance! This part of the scene delights kids and adults alike. The typical rocky bed, bubbling clear waters, and slippery mudpuppies provides entertainment for the kiddos. Their elders enjoy relaxing by its edge, entranced as usual by the rust-colored rocks sparkling in the sunlight, looking to be dusted with gold specks. The respite refreshes the vacationers and helps them get back on the road ready to finish the last leg of the journey.
What makes those creek-side picnics such a poignant part of my memories? As though taking part in this movie, I see the bright red of my grandmother’s Comet along the road and the ruby, sapphire, and emerald tumblers filled with cold drinks. I hear the children laughing and the water gurgling. I feel the give of the webbed mesh on the lawn chairs or the sturdiness of the picnic bench. I smell the pine needles covering the ground in a blanket of russet and green and the yellow mustard as it squirts from the bottle onto a ham sandwich. And oh, yes, I taste the iced tea with lemon, the bits of pulp getting caught in my teeth.
All those senses fill my mind … and my heart. But the thing that brings the memory of these picnics into a reality is the rusty creek and the love of family. The unusual colors of the creek made it a favored spot for the yearly picnic on our trip to Potter County. And the family members who made up the entourage made the picnics a time of joy, a time to be remembered with love.
Today, the rusty creek is no longer rust-colored for some reason. The picnic glade is no longer there. But whenever we have the chance to head up Route 287 on our way to the cabin, I wait for the sign for Morris. I peer out the window of the car to see if the creek’s coloring came back. I check once again to see if the picnic area was reinstated. And even though those things are gone forever, if we slow the car and wind the windows down, I can almost hear someone ask, “You didn’t forget the iced tea, did you?”
What picnic places fill the senses of your memories? Or maybe it’s the special foods … the dishware … the tablecloth. Then again, maybe it’s just the love. Please share your picnic memories with us. Blessings!