Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Spa, and I Don't Mean a Massage

This morning I was out early running errands and decided to head home through the state park.  The Spa, as it is referred to, is a vast park home to two golf courses, the Gideon Putnam Hotel, The Automobile Museum, the Victoria and Peerless Pools, The Spa Little Theater, tennis courts, natural geyser springs, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).  Driving the required 25 mph along the Avenue of the Pines, my mind is transported back to a time when I was a very little girl.  There was a previous Avenue of the Pines, now closed to traffic, a little farther south down Route 9, and it lead directly to the Gideon Putnam.  It was (and still is) a magical road, and when I was a very young child, neighbors Mary and Joe used to "borrow" me (they had no children and my parents had seven!) for occasional excursions here and there.  One of our regular stops was the Avenue of the Pines.  The reason it was so enchanting, for me, is that Mary and Joe told me that fairies and pixies lived in the trees.  I can still see those little figures in my imagination, Disney-esque miniatures that, in my mind, resembled Tinker Bell and the Lucky Charms leprechaun! 

Years later, episodes of my life replay as I take the short connection between Route 9 and Route 50.  In high school, my class (SSHS '72)  loved to gather at the Geysers.  We'd spend entire days there (some were senior skip days!) playing ball, walking barefoot in the stream, hiking through the woods, and cooking out.  Friends and I spent summer days at the elegant Victoria pool, sun bathing in the company of ballerinas from the New York City Ballet.  I remember thinking we had the best class ever, because everyone was welcome, we always had a great time, and it was so much fun just being with each other.  I can't drive through that area without thinking of the meaningful friendships that were formed and are still maintained despite years and distance that separate us from that time.

One of my first jobs was as a day camp counselor.  A few days every week, we took our little charges to the Spa Pool (formally called the Peerless Pool) for swimming lessons.  Then the campers and counselors would stay for the day.  I can still smell the french fries from the concession stand.  There was something about a hot sunny day, a cold pool, the faint smell of chlorine, the scent of Coppertone, and aroma of french fries just out of the hot oil that bring me right back!  It's an odd concoction of sensory memory, but I love it!

When my children were little, at first we lived in a couple of small apartments.  We loved the Spa Park for picnics and time outdoors.  We had no money, really, but happy memories were made there.  It was a great way to spend a day without having to spend a lot of money on entry fees.  Our water park was the Peerless Pool and the Geyser stream.  Our amusements were the playground and the natural surroundings.  Our food court was a picnic table and a basket filled with simple things -- a loaf of bread, jars of peanut butter and jelly, a pitcher of lemonade, and cookies.

Next time I drive through the park, I'm going to park my car, get out, take a long walk, and revisit some of the happiest memories of my life.

Photo credit: http://robynandgreg.com/images/avepines.jpg

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