An American moment
August 18, 2007
Yesterday morning a group of about 25 parents and grandparents gathered to watch their offspring receive swimming class certificates, earned over a summer of early mornings in a cold mountain lake. The children ages, 4 to 10, were the ostensible focus of the morning’s activities, but there was more to this event than acknowledging success in swimming.
The head lifeguard George is a High School teacher from New York City, a man who has been watching the water nearly every summer since 1966 when he was a senior in High School. Each June he returns to this Catskill Mountain Hamlet ninety minutes north of Manhattan. Yesterday, as he was giving the children their awards and remembering to acknowledge each one for some noteworthy accomplishment, he also spoke about the dozens of summers that preceded ours and some of the older folks, people who had been coming to this lake since the 1940’s, nodded their capped heads.
An American flag fluttered from the lifeguard stand beside George as he began the Pledge of Allegiance. He was a school teacher again as he stood there, his arm bending a soft salute to his heart. He led us as he had probably led his students a thousand times before.
Russians, Poles, Bronx-Irish and Italians, Americans all, on a late August morning, in the mountains above New York City, a region rich with history and legend and for a few moments we shared a scene of authentic American life. Then, sated with meaning, we waded through the piles of bagels and donuts spread out on the picnic tables nearby.