Fourth of July at the Lake

Trips to the lake are never long enough.

Every year from age 2 to 20, I spent the summer at Estling Lake in New Jersey with my sister and grandparents. It was my favorite part of the whole year, and it still is even though I’m only there for a few days once a year—maybe twice if I’m lucky. It’s just a summer community, so things slow down in the winter time, but those summers hold some of my fondest childhood memories with friends and family.

As I got older, I brought friends and boyfriends to the lake over the years, I started supervising lake activities instead of participating in them, and then two years ago, I was a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding on Estling Lake beach—the first in its history. I hope I continue to make memories there, especially since my grandparents’ house was passed down to their children—my mom and her two brothers. And I hope inherit our camp with my own sister one day. It would be an honor.

Last week I headed back to Estling for family time and our annual Fourth of July celebration. Each year we host cookout; everyone contributes and guests from near and far make the trip to catch up. This year was especially difficult, though, because it was the first without my grandfather. He was such a light in my life—in everyone’s lives—and his passing in August of last year left a noticeable absence at the party.

^^^ But first, coffee. Always coffee. 

On the morning of July 4th, I got in a sweaty run before the day started. Even though I was on the road early, the humidity was almost too much to handle. I am not used to these sticky summers anymore, so I struggled through six and a half miles before walking it in the last half mile. I’m not sure I could survive a Florida summer again after getting spoiled with mild temps and virtually no humidity in Colorado.

The entire run I thought about what kind of running felt better: humidity + sea level, or no humidity + 5,300 ft elevation. In the moment, I preferred humidity + sea level because my lungs felt great…even thought I was dripping from head to toe! I felt like I could’ve been out there all day if the sun moved behind the clouds. What do you think you’d prefer?

^^^ My shoes were on their last few runs, which is why I brought them. I planned to run a couple times then throw them out in New Jersey before I left, so I wouldn’t have to lug them back to Colorado. 

Around 4 p.m. our friends and family started to arrive and over the next hour everyone trickled in, arms full of fruit, pasta salads, and desserts. An hour later, the burgers and dogs were ready and so were our stomachs. My brother-in-law is the chef in the family, so he was in charge of mostly everything food-related and grilled up some of the best chicken I’ve ever had.

^^^ I learned how to do Dutch braids and got pretty good at them—I even figured out how to do one on myself. It’s my new favorite running hairstyle.

In the blink of an eye, it was several hours later and we were saying goodbye to our guests. So sad. I don’t always love parties, but I love this party and everyone who comes. It feels more special to me every year as my relatives get older, we lose touch inch by inch, and time starts to feel more precious. That night I fell asleep to the booms and whizzes of fireworks going off in nearby towns.

Friday, July 5th

The next day was our New York City day—our second tradition of our Fourth of July trip to the lake. My dad and I love taking the train into the city, wandering up and down our favorite streets seeing how things have changed—or haven’t. Each time I visit I imagine myself living there. The city is so big and so diverse and there are so many little pockets to discover. I bet it would take an entire lifetime.

^^^ A VanMoof in the wild! I was in Amsertdam the first time I discovered Van Moof and it was so cool to see one in NYC.

This time, my mom and dad and I made a special trip to the Vessel near the top of the Highline. The Vessel is a massive copper-plated hollow structure in the shape of an upside down bee hive with a staircase that spirals up the inside. Make sense? The funny thing is, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than sneaking into Instagram photos and perhaps herding tourists to Chelsea and the Meatpacking District neighborhoods. There’s also a $10 fee to climb the stairs if you don’t want to wait for a free timeslot. Cool, nonetheless.

We cooled off inside a mall for a few minutes then had lunch together at Sweetgreen before parting ways. My parents headed back home, and I walked south, meandering down the streets and over the avenues until I ended up at the Rapha NYC Clubhouse. I couldn’t help myself; each Rapha feels like home to me. I enjoyed some air conditioning, an iced Americano, and some Tour de France pre-race coverage before heading back out into the hot garbage heat sauna that is Manhattan streets in the summertime.

By 4 p.m., I was toast and so were my feet, which my sandals rubbed blisters into throughout the day. I took Avenue of the Americas back up to 34thto Penn Station and caught the next train home.

Saturday, July 6th

Saturday…what happened Saturday…? Oh, that’s right, almost nothing. Nothing is lovely sometimes, isn’t it? I headed out for a walk with my aunt and very pregnant sister, and when my sister turned back for home, my aunt and I kept running and walking, attempting to manage the brutal heat and humidity. This was the SECOND time I ran with someone in so long, and it felt good. I hate holding people up and, mostly, I hate that it makes my Dystonia feel real. Either way, it was nice to have company for a bit. Eventually we parted ways and I added on a couple extra miles before heading back onto the shaded lake road. My mom left us some water bottles on the steps of our mail house, so I stopped to chug and breathe for a few minutes before walking most of the last mile home.

The hot weather feels easier on my legs and muscles, but it drains me real fast. After I refueled with some leftover barbecue chicken and probably an entire tub of hummus, I went upstairs and took a two-hour nap. MY GOD did it feel amazing. As the black sheep of the family in a house with fewer beds than people, I was banished to the couch or the floor or wherever I could find a place to lay a blanket and pillow. It happens every year, and the lack of sleep night after night was wearing on me. So I dragged my tired body upstairs, faceplanted on my parents’ bed, and passed out. I rarely nap, but this time I really needed it and woke up feeling like a new person. Since it was our last night together and I was heading home early the next morning, we enjoyed a taco night for dinner. My brother-in-law lead the charge and whipped up beans, guac, shrimp, beef, salsa—the works. I was completely spoiled all weekend, so returning home to my mediocre meals was tough.

Sunday, July 7th

At 4:30 a.m. my mom shook my shoulder and whispered, “time to get up,” like she did back in high school. Gentle, motherly, lovingly. Stray fireworks kept me up late, and I felt like I hadn’t slept a wink. You can sleep on the plane, I thought as I rubbed my tired eyes.

When I got out of the car at the airport, noise pollution surrounded me. Taxis and Ubers honked at each other, smoke and steam billowed from who knows where, families shouted goodbyes at each other, airport employees yelled, “Keep moving!” to the drivers who stayed a beat too long in the drop-off lane. I love the crazy of New Jersey, the attitudes, the accents, even the faint smell of hotdogs at 5:30 a.m. Yeah, trips to the lake are never long enough.

And I cannot wait to go back, sooner rather than later.

3 Replies to “Fourth of July at the Lake”

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