Monday, June 8, 2009

The Season Pass

Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments. Enjoy!

Season Pass to the Lake:

Help Me "Pay This One Forward"

Last summer, my little family was nervously wading into the waters of opening a new business. My husband had been laid off the previous winter, and with no job prospects in sight, we gathered up every extra copper – in the couch and under the car seats -- and bought a field to fill with seed (or something like that).

In short, last summer we were B-R-O-K-E. I don’t just mean broke. I mean broker than broke. But to put it more tastefully, as the season had its sweet spots, let’s just say we were on a Budget [note: a budget with a capitol “B”].

For example, it was with glee, joyful shouts and a jar of bacon grease, we wedged our third son’s car seat between his brothers when he joined our family last spring. Cause, yup, the minivan savings plan had been sunk into the field. We had three boys crammed into the back of a Plymouth that had seen better days -- specifically, those of the Reagan era. The rusty sedan sputtered and spit and shook like it housed a rabid family of silverware-sparring squirrels. That, and it would overheat over the smallest annoyance – like its driver glancing in the rear view mirror (oh wait, it didn’t have one), or a power-walker passing in the wrong shade of purple, a southerly rainbow, a northerly one, fog.

Suffice to say, last summer our vacation plans amounted to those of a “staycation.” However, until a dear, true friend sacrificed some of her hard earned dollars to bless us with a special gift (which I’ll tell you about in a second), the only ideas I had in mind involved a hose and a well-worn kiddy pool.

So here’s the best part. I’ll never forget returning from an outing last June just as summer settled over the town for its heavy, three-month nap. The air was a wet, wool blanket. The kids were cranky. The sedan, smoky. And I was overwhelmed with it all – the new baby, the new business, the perpetual broke-ness. [Forgive me if this sounds whiny, or humor me if you’ve never been so broke you cannot relate, but the debate between “deodorant or Nair, deodorant or Nair … ‘hmmm, do I want body odor or a mono-brow’” GETS REALLY OLD!!!].

It was on that sweatful day, I dropped my limited drugstore purchases on the counter to find a Hawaiian lei taped to my fridge with five season passes to Mauch Chunk Lake pinned to it snugly. I cried. Then I dried my eyes, called that dear, true friend to thank her and pinned passes on diapered bottoms to the left and right of me. We headed up the mountain to waters that nurtured my soul and didn’t return till September.

I could write for days about my baby boys running and jumping at the foamy lake’s edge. I could write novels about cool winds blowing over the water and how they cleared away life’s stresses, putting them into perspective. I could write about how when lost in a moment of splashing I caught my reflection in the water and saw hope in my eyes.

I could write about all that, but it would take more space than this kind paper could allow. So instead, I’ll sum up with a request. Here it is. That field I mentioned worked. I mean it flew. Or better put, it grew enough barley for the basics. Late last fall, we scrapped the sedan [sigh] and bought a “new to us” minivan. I beamed. By winter, I even hit the toiletries aisle at the drugstore with a tad more freedom. Not only did I leave smelling like flowers, I picked up a [...drumroll...] mascara as well. I beamed again. Those around me did too.

So what’s the request? Just this. Help me pay this lake pass forward. Here’s how. If you’ve faced hard times and could use some sandcastle building with your kids, shoot me an email and I’ll drop your name in a hat. Winner gets a family lake pass for the season [I won’t publish your name, but I will snag your sand toys if they’re cooler than mine when our play dates collide]. Or, if you’ve experienced more fruitful times as of late (and this is truly relative), receive inspiration from the dear, true friend I mentioned (who, by the way, was not void of pressing needs when she graced my family with the priceless gift of thought, care and fun) and pick up a pass for someone in a rough spot.

Pay it forward. It doesn’t have to be a lake pass. But how great if it is! Perhaps for you it will simply be a phone call to a friend going through a tough time or a glass of iced tea to a thirsty soul. Pay it forward, and when you pick up that pass at the pavilion labeled Mauch Chunk, tell ‘em I sent you.

*Note: we have a winner; I won't print her name but she knows who she is; and listen, lady -- your cool sand toys are all mine!


Andy said...

Very inspiring. Was it Rose who gave you the passes? Whoever it was, I'm so glad you have good friends who are looking out for you.

Sarah said...

I'm so glad someone directly asked so I can embarrass Steph properly!

But yes, it was Steph -- my good friend with four kids who have needs like shoes and braces and soccer uniforms -- she's the one who bought the passes with her "extra" money.