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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A description about growing up.

Submitted: May 03, 2011

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Submitted: May 03, 2011




19 Washington Lane, Pinecliff Lake, West Milford, New Jersey. That’s where I grew up. Collin’s house was right down the street from me. He lived two blocks over on Milford Lane, across from the Earls. I grew up in the perfect place for a five year old. My best friend lived a two minute walk away and though we didn’t always agree, we were always best friends. We both loved playing sports. His sport was hockey. (He actually broke the high school scoring record in New Jersey with ease years later.) Mine was baseball. But we both excelled in anything we tried. I would go over his house every day of the week, every week. He had a trampoline, a basketball hoop, and even an above ground pool. It was never a struggle to have fun. More importantly, that’s where I met everyone. There was his brother, Pete. Pete was always a little bigger: chubby when he was younger but then built when he got older. There was Tyler and Stark from hockey. Tyler lived two blocks the other way down the street and Stark lived further away but was always around. There was Cody, from Collin’s class. Cody was kind of a bully. He, like Pete, was always built a little bigger and used it to his advantage. And then there was Craig, the new kid, who Collin invited over when he first moved to Pinecliff in the sixth grade. Craig was skinny with extremely orange hair and freckles, but none of us could have cared less. There were always other kids in and out of the usual rotation but there was always a tight camaraderie between us.

Summers were the best at Pinecliff. About a half a mile down the street from me was the beach. The single greatest beach ever. The whole lake community was a part of the Pinecliff Lake Community Club (PLCC). Regardless of the greenish water, the small, gated private beach was a haven for parents, old folks and especially kids. Every kid in Pinecliff participated in Beach Camp, a day camp full of activities, sports and fun. I always think that us kids had the best time at the beach. We would be there everyday, even though Beach Camp only ran Monday through Friday from 10:00 to 3:00. As I remember it, the littlest kids were always near the playground by the front gate. Our aged kids were usually past the sand, under the trees during camp time but by the swings when camp got out. All the cool old kids would hang out and smoke cigarettes at the stoop of the clubhouse, near the back gate. The counselors were always the older teens that ran day camp. They would be over near the clubhouse at the staff table, where we would all meet before activities. Swim meets in the diving area and Lake League Games against other beaches were what kept us going. The biggest problem with Pinecliff was that the summers always went too fast. Then the fall would come, and school would come with it.

Every year it was pretty much the same kids on the bus. Since we all lived in the same neighborhood, we always knew we would see each other on the bus. I grew up in the perfect place for a twelve year old. My parents finally started to trust that I would be home at some point before dinner and started letting me stay out right off the bus. It was also the year that Craig moved to Pinecliff. He lived a block in the opposite direction from where Collin lived, but we all caught the bus right in front of Collin’s house anyway. The two block walk home sometimes took hours. It was usually just Craig and me, but sometimes Collin stuck around to see the dumb stuff we would do. Totally unconcerned with the time, we would climb trees, pop seed pods, break sticks, throw rocks, whatever we could do to occupy the time. But most importantly we always had fun.

The fall meant pickup football at the beach when we were this age. Even the kids that didn’t like sports brought their best to the field. Even with all the scuffles and skirmishes during the games, everyone was always close at the end. When winter came around we would walk home on the ice everyday. It could have been fifty degrees or negative fifty degrees and we would have done it. That would even take us hours. Sometimes we would play hockey with all the kids from the football games. Unfortunately, the beach was usually silent in the winter. Spring always went surprisingly fast. Everyone started going out more and meeting at the beach again. The older kids would stay out late, even on school nights this time of the year. Our group was old enough that we started to hang out with girls now, but we couldn’t stay out late like the older kids. During the day, we usually skateboarded or just hung out on the picnic tables to talk about anything and everything. Excitement was in the air because everyone could feel summer coming as the mountain turned from brown to green and the days got longer.

It was summer again. It always actually came fast no matter how much we denied it. I lived in the perfect place for a seventeen year old. Our group of kids changed a lot now. We were all too old and too cool for Beach Camp but still spent all of our waking hours at the beach. Now we were the kids that hung out at the staff table. It was safe to say that Craig and I were best friends at this point and were always together. Collin’s face faded from our group. He was always too busy with his landscaping job and all of his hockey stuff. The story was similar for Pete. But faces appeared in their vacancies, especially those of girls. There was Justine, the beautiful, brunette lifeguard with an even lovelier personality. She was always with Jen, one of my best friends from skiing that was never really around Pinecliff when we were younger. Jen was tall and blonde, but mostly just loud. Best of all was how much she loved fun. We also hung out with a varying group of girls that were a year younger than me. Everyone still always got along well. But most importantly, it was summer. No cares, no worries, no bedtime.

I never understood the night life at Pinecliff when I was younger, but now it was blatantly obvious to me. Because Pinecliff was gated and private, the cops couldn’t get in unless they got called. This made the beach an ideal place to party and have a good time. There were night security guards, but we all made friends with them over weed and beer. I had my drivers license now and my parents trusted me to stay out at night. Every night was a party. Our group of kids started to get along with the older kids, making a bigger, tighter group. Every party was perfect. Blunts, beer, cigarettes, smiles and good times. Craig and I often smoked with Tyler and Cody on the stoop of the clubhouse. Tyler also drank with all the other kids and Cody would play guitar. (Cody grew out of his bigger bully body, got skinny and became an amazing guitar player.) Some nights there would be upwards of forty or fifty kids drinking and having a good time. We lived like summer would never end and sometimes it felt like it wouldn’t. But it always did.

Senior year went fast. The beach was the most important place in the world during my senior year. I lived in the perfect place for an eighteen year old. Craig and I changed our bus stop to outside another friend, Terry’s house. He lived across from the big, abandoned, white house where I kissed a girl for the first time when I was twelve. It always reminded me of when I was twelve and the group of kids I hung out with, but I never had time to reminisce with the fast lifestyle I was living. After school, Craig, Terry and I would all smoke and go to the beach to play hacky sack. Craig would take amazing pictures of the lake, the beach and Pinecliff in general. (To this day I keep some of Craig’s photography hanging on my walls.) That was the routine for the whole school year until Terry had to move. Summer came back around and it was party time again. During the days we would watch the younger kids have fun in day camp and smoke cigarettes and Black & Milds on the stoop. “They’ll be like us someday”, I always think to myself.

I started to wonder how parents never made a big deal about all of us partying every night. It took family day to teach me that. Family day is a huge party that takes place at Pinecliff with the whole community, their families and their friends. It starts at 6:00am and the party goes until everyone passes out. People from Pinecliff know it as “Christmas but better” and that’s the truth. On this day, adults, young adults, old folks and teens all drink and party hand in hand as part of one big celebration. A celebration of summer. A celebration of freedom. Live music and swimming and volleyball and food. Family day is the best day of the year. The best part about it is the bond that forms between the parents of the community and the kids of Pinecliff, or the D.O.P.s. It makes the community whole. I’ll never forget family day and the wise words of a drunken dad that cleared things up for me: “We were just like you guys once.”

Pinecliff is more than just a place. It’s more than just a community on a lake. It’s a cycle of life. It starts with the little kids playing in their front yards and moves up to the pre-teens hanging out at the swings after school. It continues with the Beach Camp kids competing in Lake League Games and the counselors that guide them. Those counselors are also the teens that keep the beach alive from after camp until sundown, and live it up more after the sun goes down. There’s the older kids that help those teens along and try to adapt to real life. Then there’s the parents, a group littered with lovable weirdos but it plays more than an essential part. It completes a circle. And though I’ve moved away from Pinecliff, this cycle shaped me into who I am and I’ll never forget the place that I grew up. I may just be a piece of the puzzle, and so could this story, but what matters is the big picture. Pinecliff is the big picture. I grew up in the perfect place for a person.

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