THE NORTH COUNTRY
I have gotten a bit of slack lately for calling Sacket’s Harbor NY my hometown and not, Watertown NY. This frustrates me. I love Watertown and I love Sackets. I couldn’t be prouder of how and where I grew up. My friends from “home” are to this day, some of my closest and dearest friends. Northern New York, is my hometown.
I should emphasize for those of you who do not know, Northern New York State (where Watertown and Sackets are) is really far north. Basically, we get gas in Canada, not kidding. To give you an idea, it takes about a 6 hours to drive from Manhattan, which is like driving the entire length of England. Most people are shocked to know that you can drive that long and still be in the same state. You can. When I tell people I’m from NNY, most of them think I mean Westchester. Not so much.
NNY is really far away from everything, except if you’re coming from Canada. It has possibly the longest and harshest winters in the world, doesn’t have all that much going on, and is in major need of better shopping. On the flip side, It is incredibly beautiful spring, summer, fall and winter. It definitely brings out your inner “outdoorsman”, has some of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve ever seen, and best of all, has some of the most kind, honest, funny, loyal, and real people I have met to date. Let me just say, Jersey Shore and The Hampton’s, I’ll keep the North Country.
I have a lot of homes (not in the physical sense) and I think most people do. Home can be where your family lives, where you lived once, your grandparents house, a place you have fond memories, a house you happen to have in Switzerland or Idaho or, where you live now. Unfortunately for me, Facebook doesn’t offer two choices for hometown and Northern New York isn’t an option either. As a result, people think I’m not proud of where I grew up. The truth is quite the contrary.
My family has been spending summers in a small community by Sacket’s Harbor, NY for over 100 years. We have several names for it. “The cottage”, “The Point”, “CP”, they’re all cottage lingo for the same place, Campbell’s Point. I was 5 months old the first time I was introduced to the cottage and it must have been love at first sight because, nothing can tear me away from it. Campbell’s Point is a small association of 50 cottages, some of which are 100 years old and some which are new. Although we used to stay with my uncle when we were younger, my dad bought Julia and I a cottage in 1986 which is where I stay when I’m there now. For one reason or another, Julia wasn’t as in love with the cottage as I was so, when I made a little money I bought it from her and renovated it ( I tore it down and rebuilt it). I made it perfect for me and into somewhere I would be able to stay year round when I came “home”. It’s
the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and their business as well. We don’t lock our doors, invite ourselves for dinner, and have no problem borrowing bathing suits, sugar, or wine. Campbell’s Point is very much my family. I’ve been going there for 32 years now and I know it and love it like nowhere else in the world.
Shortly after my first trip to the cottage, my parents divorced and my mother moved my sister Julia and I to Gouverneur, NY. She knew she didn’t want to raise us in the city (NYC area) and chose Gouverneur because she felt it was wholesome and close to the cottage. It was a big change from Staten Island but, we spent all holidays and vacation time visiting NY ( dad and our family) and when summertime came around, our whole family would come upstate to be together, at the point.
Seven years later my mom remarried and we moved to a nearby town, Watertown NY. Growing up in Watertown was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I had an amazing group of friends, excellent teachers, and many creative extracurricular activities. I was writing to some old high school friends this morning and I think my exact comment was “I think not many people were as lucky as us to have so little to do that we
could bond so well with just wine coolers and ditches!” I know that sounds bad. The truth is, we worked hard to get good grades, played sports like good All-American Girls, were total band geeks (total), slaved over various jobs, and made good use of our weekends. I’ve camped in many fields, spent time in plenty of ditches, marched in too many (cold) marching bands and drank my fair share of Vodka from oranges (nice). Watertown, NY was an awesome place to grow up and I love it, head to toe.
After high school I started working a lot and made it “home” mostly only for holidays (the ones when I wasn’t working) and for time during the summer. I was lucky enough to get together now and then with a few friends from high school but, as life happens it wasn’t as much as I wish it could have been.
When I am home, I like to stay at the cottage. I always felt like I put so much of myself into my home there that I should make the most out of the little time I’m “home” and stay there. I know my mom wishes I would stay with her but, little fishes grow up and I think she understands. I like having my flannel shirts just where I left them, knowing that the mess in the sink is mine and that the back door sticks because I refused to put gutters on, for the sake of style.
The cottage has that “Je ne sais quoi” that is really difficult for people to understand if they didn’t grow up there. It’s not just the lifelong friendships or family connections. It’s not just all the memories, how beautiful it is even on the worst day or that everyone there knows my deepest secrets (scary). For me, it’s more. For me the cottage is the place where I can go and know everything is going to be ok. Whenever anything has been hard for me, confusing or scary I find some peace at the cottage that I don’t get anywhere else. It’s also the one place that I have always been connected to and I know I always will be. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to bounce around the world or that if Alex wanted to move to the moon tomorrow, I wouldn’t care. At the end of the day, home really just is where the heart is.
I’m home in San Francisco at the moment but missing my home and family and friends in Northern New York at all times.
Sending Eskimo kisses to NNY and all of you, I hope you’re enjoying the snow! Maggie
These were too funny not to put up! They’re photos of me with my sister Kate, Hannah with her sister Nell, and Em with her sister Morgan. We’ve all obviously spent loads of time together, know WAY too much about one another and are all together too comfortable. I love them all like my sisters.