Tales from my Surfboard Part 7: Lake in Winter

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It wasn’t always me going back to Massachusetts. Sometimes Lily came to New York to see me. The biggest difference was that Massachusetts tends to be more accepting than New York. New York is extremely conservative in comparison to Mass. 

Many people may wonder why we didn’t just choose – Massachusetts or New York? Pick a location and move in together. We had that conversation many times over the years. In the end, I think we were both scared. Lily was afraid to give up her life and family in Mass to come to more conservative New York where we would both struggle and everything feels so precarious. I was in New York for a specific purpose – education – and it took me a lot longer to reach my goals than anticipated because life happens. In the end, it came down to fear and economics on my end. I could not afford to live in Mass and I didn’t want to be in a position of living with someone if I was not able to pull my own weight.

Probably our biggest experiment in this dilemma was the year when Lily rented a house on Cayuga Lake here in New York for 5 months of the winter. It was the off-season for Lily at work, so the only thing she was technically leaving behind was her family. She did travel back to see them. 

The house was a fully furnished rental that was someone’s lake house. The rental was reasonable in the off season. It was on a seasonal road that was never plowed and when not blocked by snow, was often blocked by trains passing. It was directly on the lake and had a gorgeous sliding glass door that opened directly onto the dock of the water.

There was a canoe and other boat apparatus at the cottage that we used on the water. Lily made sure to teach me that the water and the lake was beautiful, even in winter. 

Perhaps the water was even more beautiful then. Whenever a storm came up the coast, it produced good wake. We put on wet suits to help protect against the cold and even took our shortboards out on the waves. 

Cayuga Lake is inland, so the wake is not as good as the ocean. Winter waves move slow, small and lazy. We were were able to catch some. We also took the surfboards up to Great Lake Ontario. There the waves were better – more comparable to the ocean on a good day. 

Lily was able to find some temporary odd jobs to do while she was in the cottage in New York. I was working full time and going to school, so of course we could not spend every minute together. The experiment was to see if Lily would be interested in moving to New York to be with me permanently. 

Having Lily in Ithaca for 5 months allowed me to see the city through her eyes. It was like playing tourist in your own city. We went places and did things that I never would have seen or done alone. I remember we got to see Rusted Root in concert at The Haunt. Rusted Root was the band who did my graduation song. When I graduated from high school, we were the last graduating class allowed to have a song. When our song played, we all stood up, hugged each other, and shook hands. When the song ended, we sat back down. The administration said we were “disruptive,” so no graduating class has been able to have a song since unless it is an original song made by a member of the graduating class. 

Lily and I saw Rusted Root in concert. We visited the wineries and attended many plays of live theatre. We spent time together and Lily helped me to fall in love with the beautiful Finger Lakes region all over again. 

Sunday mornings we would wake up lazily. I remember sitting in an overstuffed recliner right by the sliding glass door with a good cup of coffee watching the snow fall gently on the lake. Lily helped to open my eyes to good coffee and taught me that life is too short to drink the cheap stuff. Go for the gourmet coffee, you will be happier for it. It is the small indulgences in life that matter the most.

Saturday evenings I would arrive at the cottage after work. We would walk the dog (Lily had a dog then), and play some flag football in the yard. Well, as much flag football as two people and a dog can play. 

At the end of the 5 month rental, I remember Lily saying that it was a beautiful area and that she loved it. New York was not for her. It is too conservative and stifling here. She went back to Massachusetts. 

Well, we can say we tried. 

On my end, I was even more in love with the natural beauty of the area despite all of the challenges of living here. Lily taught me to love the lake in winter. Sometimes the lake is more beautiful in winter than it is in summer. Winter is not something to be feared, but to be embraced. It has a beauty just as brilliant as the summer, even if in a different way.

Stay tuned for more Tales from my Surfboard … telling stories of lives of loved ones lost to COVID. 

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