The River in 2020

By: Janet Guerrero D’Alessandro

Volume 15, Issue 5, May 2020

Once in a while, we think of a place that we like to visit, or perhaps find a place to spend a vacation, or purchase a summer home. Some people have summer homes, cottages, and camps, timeshares, and some just hope for any of those places to use as a getaway with their family or friends. Some like to go it alone, enjoy the solitude of a special place. And, then some only take a day trip and always dream of perhaps buying a season-home. But I am sure we enjoy being near water and it could be an ocean, River, lake or pond. Any type of dwelling in a special place is ideal and makes you want to be there whenever the time allows. Places like that lure you back time after time.

I love anything that is waterfront or near the water, and I am not picky about what type of water. I like to boat and enjoy taking a cruise on a sunny day. Let me correct that statement, I like to boat but never drive the boat as I leave that to my fiancé, he knows so much more than I do when it comes to navigating around the River. I liked my little sailboat and rowboat as a kid and could spend hours upon hours sailing in the back bay of my childhood summer home off the coast of Maine. It was like a magical place with so much to keep me busy outdoors. There was the beach, ocean, surfing, sailing, cartwheels on the beach, playing tennis or ping pong in the community room. When I think back to those days, I know for sure it had nothing to do with going to Maine for the summer; it all had to do with no school and carefree days with my island friends. It was the anticipation of getting ready for the trip for the entire summer and knowing it was going to be so much fun. Seeing my summer friends again and planning our days together. I could do nothing, and yet it always felt like something.

2020 Eerie view of the River. [Photo by Glennis Newton]

The River is that magical place, I am new to the River and have only spent the seasons from 2015 to 2019, and I am hoping we will be back for 2020. With the pandemic and all the staying home and staying safe, I think everyone is ready to get away and open their cottages, camps, and island homes. It might be at this time everyone will take a deep breath when they reach their Thousand Island special place and feel so grateful to be back on or near the River.

These past months were something totally out of the ordinary for everyone that reads this publication, as no one I know of remembers anything like this pandemic in their lifetime. However, I remember my great grandmother Laura telling me about the Spanish Influenza of 1918 and how my mother, who was born in that year, almost died. My great-grandmother and her mother (my great-great-grandmother) drove from Frederica, Delaware to Camden, New Jersey, in a Tin Lizzy and picked up my mother and drove back to their rural home to care for her. They used home remedies and kept an eye on her day and night taking turns sleeping. Finally, she showed some signs of improvement and they saw her responding and eating more than she had in many weeks.

They did not return her to her parents until they knew for sure she was out of the woods and less and less people were becoming infected. That story stuck with me all these years as I was remarkably close with my great grandmother and she lived to be 98 years old.

She loved sharing those stories of growing up in the country and how her Dad who was a sea captain and owner of several sailing vessels that delivered dry goods from Portland Maine to Baltimore Maryland. She pulled out old picture albums to show me his sailing vessels and pictures of him and his crew at the docks in Bowers Beach and Philadelphia, PA. Other photographs were of my mother, who was a baby, and more through her teenage years.  

The family always loved the ocean and spent a lot of time at the beach in the summer months. I believe that is how my mother became such a good swimmer and loved those lazy days at the beach. From that time until she was an adult, she spent every summer with her grandmother and great- grandmother in what she called a small cottage right on the beach, only going to town to buy necessities.  They were a hearty stock, and I think it had a lot to do with the air and the food they consumed as everything was fresh and homemade.

Thinking back to those stories reminded me of how lucky my mother was to survive. I think she had the best care possible because of how much her grandparents loved her and how her parents thought their decision to care for her for so far from home was the best possible decision for everyone. Not to mention being in the country air and away from the city was also part of her recovering and not having a relapse.

Now in 2020, 102 years later, we as a country and the world are experiencing the COVID-19 Pandemic. Indeed, I never thought I would see what it was like in 1918, and believe me when I say this; it is scary because I knew how my grandparents felt when they told the story of almost losing my mother.
I also remember my grandparents telling me everyone wore a mask when they were out in public. My grandfather was a detective in the Camden, New Jersey Police Department said it was “so eerie seeing people walking around with a mask, and if they entered a bank, people were on alert” because that is what was worn by a bank robber.

Cheery view of our River, ready for summer 2020. [Photo by Janet Guerrero D'Alessandro]

Soon we will be back to the River, it is therapeutic in the best of times, but now that seems to mean even more than one can write or put into words. We all love unique places, and everyone I know on the St. Lawrence has a story of what the River means to them. The River is special in so many ways, and this year, it will mean more to all that love this place.

When we open the windows of our cottages, air out the rooms, plant flowers, and put our boats or kayaks in the River we will surely enjoy every moment of every day. I think for many, we will know we are back on the day we dive into the River for a swim, it will almost seem unreal and I know everyone will appreciate that first dip into the River.

My wish is for everyone to look out at the River and say, "Thank You for giving us another wonderful season," and be grateful for all that we have on the River, along the River, and in the River.

By Janet Guerrero D'Alessandro

Janet Guerrero D’Alessandro's career took her to many places, over the course of 47 years in the workforce; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; NYC and Delray Beach, FL. Her degree from Rutgers was in journalism. She originally wanted to pursue a job in journalism, however she was sidetracked and entered the field of finance, working for Sears Credit Card, Wells Fargo Bank, CIT Livingston, NJ and Chicago, Il and then to Florida, where she planned to retire in a warm climate. Now, as you can see, she has time to read and relax in the Thousand Islands, with her partner David Alibrandi. In May 2019 Janet wrote, "Unexpected Journey",  for TI Life.

Posted in: Volume 15, Issue 5, May 2020, Essay

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