New Hampshire

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New Hampshire

Growing up I spent the bulk of each Summer from age 6 to age 14 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. This fact is the source of some legendary stories of previously controlled insanity.

It started out with my grandparents on my mother's side choosing to spend their Summers up there, with their HQ in Ft. Lauderdale the rest of the year. We also had beach houses elsewhere like in Alligator Point and Holden Beach, which was nice growing up. Especially in college, when we had a house in Marathon Florida, in the keys. I was suddenly Mr. Popular when Spring break came knocking. But my Grandparents were always moving around, depending on the mood. It's what you do when you're retired and like to drive.

My grandparents had a lot of money and hung out with other loaded old people. That's not bragging; it's true and doesn't mean I have squat. It just made my childhood weird. Their friends were usually quite a bit older than them, and always older in my Grandfather's case. I think retiring so young made him comfortable about the geezers that hung around Coral Ridge Country Club in Ft. Lauderdale, where he played sometimes 3 rounds a day. That's also where I learned to swim, incidentally. That was a great club and my Grandfather would bring me around to show me off all the time. Harold and Charlotte Bowen, Mack were the people we visited the most in NH. All in their 70's even then I think. Scarily and amazingly, my Grandfather was around my age during that time.

Their old friends chose to go to Wolfeboro for whatever reason. I don't know why they chose Wolfeboro, of all places. It's domestic, and a high dollar area, which I didn't know at the time, which may be why. You don't know any differences when you're a kid. A ride in a Rolls Royce is just a ride in a neat car. And hanging out with octogenarians at golf clubs in New Hampshire was normal, even though your friends all are hanging out back home going to sports camp and doing the enviable-at-the-time "nothing?" In any case, we didn't join in that method of enjoying our Summer. My grandfather as always had other plans that were a bit out of the mainstream.

Firstly, although I often flew to where I was going, either Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Charlotte, Columbia or Boston, I sometimes got stuck going up with my grandparents as they passed through SC from either Ft. Lauderdale or Alligator Point, Florida. That's a long drive to make with your grandparents, creeping down the fast lane of I-95 with the left blinker on from SC to NH, all jammed in the front seat with muzak playing, no one to talk to, and nothing to do, when you're 8. In fact, it's Hell. Eating at picnic tables on the side of I-95. Our "lunch" being what my grandmother slaved over: deviled ham, saltines and warm Tab. The back seat of a 40 foot pink Cadillac would have made the ride more tolerable, rather than riding on the floorboard with my head stuck under the peppermint candystripe seat covers. White leather seats may sound like a good idea, but apparently you only get them to cover them with a cheap tacky seat cover. But the spacious, limousine-like backseat was occupied by a rack of clothes which apparently couldn't be shipped, or stored even up there.

Once in Wolfeboro, it was gorgeous. A picturesque place where movies are filmed and LL Bean is everywhere. Lake houses with wooden Chris Craft "motoryachts" and sailboats across the watery horizon. That was what my grandparents' friends looked at from their lovely houses. I spent weeks driving around with my Grandfather up there looking at real estate, stopping and talking to contractors, and exploring house designs. My grandfather had several development companies in Florida, one being "Barry Builders" after yours truly. My middle name is unfortunately Barry and what he called me. Actually, he usually called me "Buster." But all the Cape Cod lake houses up there were beautiful.

My grandfather instead rented a motel room for the three of us. Motel, with a "M." 1 room, 2 double beds and a roll-out cot I had to make and roll up every day like a prisoner. 1 tiny bathroom, 1 sliding-door closet, and a chest of drawers where I got a few drawers for my things. And a kitchenette for my grandmother to heat up hot dogs and store cereal, and a little screen porch, with a view at least, down a mile-long hill to the lake which kept me in great shape. A hill full of nice little cottages for rent, may I add. Climbing a mountain several times a day will keep a little kid in pretty good shape.

I went to Camp Belknap for 7 years, which was in a nearby little town that consisted of the camp, basically. They had a lot of land, including several islands, and had a lot of wealthy campers. My bunkmate's dad one Summer was the president of HBO in NYC for example, and my Grandfather played golf with a lot of the other kids' dads and the camp director a lot, in fact. He may have been treating them at the club now that I think about it. He had memberships at Bald Peak and Kingswood Country Clubs up there. I took golf lessons eevry summer at Kingswood and tennis lessons at Bald Peak, which was a much nicer club but farther away from our motel room.

Everyone up there was a yankee but me. Not counting the Floridians, of course. And not a single black person to be seen, which was noticeable to a South Carolinian but none of the Notherners(everyone else) who apparently are more accustomed to segregation despite their allegations towards the South. Some may think that Camp Belknap was a respite from the snoring grandparents back in the motel room, but alas. I had been given my dad's old down Army sleeping bag from Viet Nam that was suited for sub-arctic temps, and nothing else. Why on Earth buy a new one? It's better than rolling up in an old greasy moose hide. You could either swelter in the bag, or don't use it; it was a binary bag. Like having a heater that has 2 settings: molten lava and off. Our cabins at camp were well-made, but they were still only simple cabins, and had leaks and knot holes and were just raw wood with gaps and lots of places for mosquitoes to come in for nightly feasts. This is where the Hell began. My choice at nights was then: zip up in the bag and proceed to sweat to the point I'm dehydrated and not sleep at all I'm so hot and restless, or sleep on top of the bag and get sucked dry by mosquitoes that are buzzing all in my ears and also not letting me sleep at all. I think I probably chose a little of both. I went to camp for 2 weeks, usually. I once was going for a month I think, even though I typically BEGGED not to go each year, but I was pulled out early because my mother was doing poorly. That was later along when she had cancer and I was probably 13 years old. She died the next Summer.

I didn't like camp for several reasons. It could have been awesome, if it were in the South for beginners. Every year I was made fun of for my accent. I was a shy kid, so when I had to get up in front of the entire camp and sing a modified version of "Farmer in the Dell," it stuck with me. The crap sleeping bag was another. I never got any sleep in the Summer, and it wasn't due to time. My grandparents snored so loud it kept me up all night, then at camp, ...well, I already described that experience.

Northern kids were different than Southern. Much ruder, whiter and louder. They also played a TON of sports, which was fine to a degree. But I was also a scrawny kid, so trying to carry canoes and tip capsized sailboats over when you're a 98 lb weakling is no fun.