Reflections on the Lake

Lake Winnipesaukee memories run clear and deep for this world-famous singer-songwriter



Courtesy photo

I went with my grandmother, I might have been 6 or 7. Wish I could remember more. It was a pleasurable time. An old New England resort hotel — huge, everything wood, floors, tables, walls, the scent of polished wood.

There was an order about the place that I will describe as British — I was surely unaware of England or its influences in America.

We were Ellis Island people, not Mayflower. And I was in Mayflower country for the first time. Even though my grandmother Nonna lived in Boston for a while (she had a tinge of a Boston accent), she had blue eyes, light skin and pure white hair. She was of Italian descent, Neapolitan and Romano. Anyway, who is thinking about all that with flowered porcelain china, a pink-colored glass vase on the breakfast table, a small carousel of jams and spreads, the first time I ever tasted apple butter with toast served in a silver toast file with slots for six slices. No one spoke of gluten intolerances then. I’m not even certain I had ever had square white bread. Bread was, more often than not, fresh Italian.

Nonna would cut slices and, sometimes for breakfast, toast them in the gas oven she lit with kitchen matches.

Then there was swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee!

After breakfast, the social director came in and announced the day’s and evening’s activities: “This evening there will be a scavenger hunt.”

And we were handed a list of things we had to find — a feather, a pine cone ... Maybe I’ll find an arrowhead, a real Indian arrowhead! It’s not on the list, nothing on the list was deliberately hidden, just nature things. Maybe there will be an arrowhead next to the feather! This is Lake Winnipesaukee, an Indian word, something to do with the Great Spirit. There must be arrowheads everywhere. We were each given a pail, and the first one back with all on the list won.

I won the minute I started looking.

I became a searcher, a quester — lost track of time, who cares! Ooh, a feather, a robin’s egg shell. “Was that on the list?” I didn’t worry. When I came back it was all over. My grandmother looked at every one of my treasures — no others around, no social director. I had my prize: the rock, the petrified beetle, the butterfly wing. I had everything I wanted.

The sun was setting on Lake Winnipesaukee and I would swim. My grandmother was teaching me different strokes and how to stand on my head in the water, so my foot would be where my mouth had been, and I learned to think on my feet.

This ability has served me well in my lifelong, brilliant career.

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