I can’t say that I know what it was like to grow up in Lopez, but I have a pretty good idea…….
I spent many a evenings on Gramma Puzo’s front porch listening to my dad (AKA: Teddy) and his brother (AKA: Louie), and Al Stavisky reminisce about such things as Doodle-bug Hill and various other escapades of their youth. I would laugh and listen to the crickets, being that they were the only sound, other than our voices, for miles and miles. That was my favorite thing about Lopez, how it had the ability to make you think that no one else knew about it except for the people you saw when you were there. Growing up I spent many summers there and through the months and years I was able to see through the generations before me, what it was like in Lopez throughout the years of their lives. Myself? I have dozens of fond memories of time with family, laughing and telling stories; spending whole days floating in Sulfa Water (the “swimming hole”) seeing who could sit in the water-fall the longest and collecting and eating blueberries from the bushes up above the big flat rock. My brother, cousins and friends formed names for landmarks that had been there forever it seemed, and most likely bared the same names for our predecessors. While watching us from the bank, sometimes two or three generations smiled while we unassumingly replayed what was surely a familiar scene from their own childhood. At night there were bonfires and marshmallows and more stories. In the morning the windows in Gramma’s house that faced the field no doubt would hold for viewing some sort of wildlife that always excited us….no matter how many times I have seen a deer in that field, I will still run to the kitchen window with a thrill at the prospects of seeing a doe and her fawn romp around in the grove of pine trees I loved to play in when I was very small. I built forts with Cindy Stavisky every summer. We had an entire house set up just at the edge of their field. We climbed around the Indian caves and collected bottles, pots, pans, anything we came across that would be useful in our humble abode. Mike and Nick (our brothers) would join us sometimes and we would try to catch the bullfrogs in the pond next-door. It didn’t matter that we rarely succeeded, it was the thrill of the hunt! The four of us, Cindy, Mike, Nick and myself should consider ourselves quite lucky to be among children who had the privilege and joy to spend a little part of their childhood in Lopez. I have had the opportunity last year to spend quite a bit of time travelling and studying in Europe, and when people ask me where my favorite place is, I say without thinking, Lopez. Of course, it’s not in Europe, but of all the beautiful places and things I saw while I was there, I still think of those mountains in Pennsylvania before all else. Nothing beats that Cold Spring water, or a walk down through the field to the waterfall. The history that the area emanates is amazing as well and I am so glad that Alex has begun to preserve it. I am glad that we can use today’s technology to preserve this place that is so fond to many, instead of using technology to change Lopez from what it is to what everything else in the world has become: commercialized and impersonal. Growing up, I, of course, never realized the importance of the experiences I was having, but now as I get older and I look back to the not-so-distant past, I see that my time spent in the fresh air was more than just children at play, I was receiving an education that all children should be so lucky to get. In today’s world where it is becoming the exception to interact with your extended family in such a way, for us it was always the rule. Hearing the stories my great uncles, and grandmother had to tell, was some of the best time spent in my life thus far. I can imagine telling the same stories to my children, hopefully on the same porch swing that I would fall asleep on, curled up against my dad (he had a bigger belly then that made for a good pillow), listening to tall tales being spun out of the truths of their childhood. There are many more stories and memories that I have in my heart, and maybe someday I will write a book like Dad keeps saying I should, but for now, they are best told by the voices of the people who lived them.