My Heart Remembers My Grandmother’s Hotel by
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(165 Stories)

Prompted By First Memory

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The leader of a writing workshop I took years ago asked us to think back to our earliest memories and write about a place our heart remembers.   I thought of my grandmother’s hotel in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York where I spent childhood summers.  (See My Game Mother,   The Troubadour)

When I was 11 my grandmother was no longer able to run it,  and the hotel was sold.   Then years  later when the Catskills were no longer fashionable we heard that a developer had taken over the property and razed the buildings to the ground.   But my heart remembers the hotel just as it was those long-ago summers when I was a child,  and so I wrote about it in a child’s voice.

“At my grandma’s hotel we have a hill and I can roll right down all the way to the lake.   And we have a dock and we have four rowboats,  and they have their names on them.   My mother painted the names and one rowboat has my name – DANA!

And there’s a waterfall where the lake gets very small and goes underneath the Neversink Road into the woods.  And at the other end of the lake there’s a special place –  the swamp where the big snapping turtles live.   Sometimes my father takes me there in the rowboat and we sneak up on a big old turtle if he is sleeping on a rock and if I’m very careful my father let’s me tap old Mister Turtle VERY GENTLY with my oar!

And at my grandma’s hotel a favorite place to hide is under the porch.   No one can see me there,  but I can hear the people talking and if it’s before the time to eat I can hear the waiters inside the dining room setting up the tables and the tinkly noise of the glasses and the plates and the spoons.

Then when it’s time to eat my grandma goes on the porch and rings the big dinner bell to tell the people to come,  and all the grownups come to the dining room.   And all the kids come too and we run to the children’s dining room in back of the big dining room.   It’s noisy in the children’s dining room but no one makes us be quiet so it’s fun.

My grandma has a cook and a salad man and a baker and a dishwasher man,  but my father says sometimes they quit or they get drunk or my grandma has to fire them and then my grandma is the real cook.  And sometimes my grandma is the real baker too and she makes apple strudel for the dessert on a big table where she rolls out the dough with a big rolling pin.   And guess who my grandma says is her very best helper?    She says it’s ME!”

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!
www.WorldThruBrownEyes.com

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Tags: Hotels, Family, Childhood
Characterizations: funny, moving

Comments

  1. Laurie Levy says:

    I love how you shared these precious memories through your eyes as a young child, Dana.

  2. Be still MY heart! Fantastic story, Dee…and the photos, priceless, especially the one of you and your grandmother! I love that you used your child voice, it’s perfect.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Sweet memory, little Dana. I’m sure spending summers at your grandmother’s hotel seemed like the best thing in the world for you. And having a rowboat with your name on it! WOW!

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    Nice memories!

    Back in the 60s, my father started a business specializing in commercial coffee machine installation and repair. I worked with him for several summers. When the business was new, he’d go far afield for customers. As a result, we often left Bayonne, NJ very early in the morning for jobs down at the Jersey shore, or at various Borscht Belt resorts. The only one I remember is Brown’s Hotel.

    I wonder if we ever met your grandmother?

  5. John Shutkin says:

    What a terrific story, Dana. I know only from afar about the Catskill hotels — though there is now “Dirty Dancing” and “Mrs. Maisel” to remind/inform us — but I can tell just how delightful these memories are to you. Thank you for sharing them.

    And your grandma sounds like an amazing person!

    • Thanx John, indeed my grandma Esther was quite an amazing and strong woman. She and my grandfather Sam emigrated from the Ukraine in the early 1900s and settled in NYC’s lower eastside. But Sam developed emphysema and a doctor advised they get out of the city and the sweatshop where Sam worked as a garment cutter, and so they moved to the Catskills in upstate NY and bought a farm. At some point they started taking in boarders and eventually enlarged the farmhouse turning it into a small hotel and sold the chickens and cows!

      My ailing grandfather Sam apparently spent his time on the porch reading Yiddish and Russian newspapers while running the hotel was left to Esther. And BTW she was a FABULOUS cook, no chicken soup has ever tasted like hers!

  6. Marian says:

    What a fun and warm memory, Dana, and I loved traveling back in time with you in a child’s voice. I went to the Catskills only once, to the Fallsview, which was a bit more commercial but still had tons of food and Yiddish-speaking comedians. Thanks for the memory!

  7. Suzy says:

    Lovely memories, Dana, and as others have commented, it’s wonderful that you wrote it in a child’s voice. What fun to hide under the porch and listen to the guests talking!

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    The child’s voice is lovely, and the joys of being outside contrast so well to current screen time or manufactured “fun” parks. You are lucky to have these beautiful memories, and I’m sure you learned to seek out experiences that resonate with this authentic joy as well.

  9. Loved your choice to capture a child’s narrative voice. You capture such vivid images: rolling down the hill to the lake, the water’s disappearance over the waterfall/dam, tapping those old turtles from afar. What a playground!

  10. Like Shutkin, I only know these Catskill hotels from Dirty Dancing or Mrs. Maizell. This was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the tinkling of the glass as the waiters set up for a meal, and the straightforward way you heard about people quitting or getting drunk or fired and the nice consequence: Grandma makes the strudel!

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