I usually hated leaving my friends, dreaded the mosquito bites and prayed that I wouldn’t miss out on anything fun. But once we arrived, and I caught site of my entire family and the lakes and creeks nearby, I always knew that it was going to be a great weekend.
The official dad and daughter tradition was taking the canoe out on the Connoquenessing Creek. A Western Pennsylvania traditional day of fishing, it was an annual showdown: the Morgan’s vs. the local trout.
Sometimes my grandfather would join us to share his wisdom about catching the biggest fish out there, and my dad was, of course, always there to put the worms on the hook for me (there was no way that I was touching those things). We would create contest categories so that no one would go home a loser – first fish, biggest fish, smallest fish, most fish, least fish and the ugliest (pronounced OOG-LI-EST) fish.
My favorite memory was at age five, the year that I decided to jump up and down in the middle of the canoe screaming, “Come here fishy, fishy, fishy” every 10 minutes. I assured everyone that the strategy had worked for Bert and Ernie on “Sesame Street.” Why wouldn’t it work for us, too?
I truly thought that the fish would just jump into the boat. Big surprise, we didn’t catch anything that day, as I’m pretty sure that I successfully scared all the fish away after almost knocking everyone into the water.
Luckily though, I was redeemed the following year. We caught a total of 52 fish in a mere four hours.
Weekends at our cottage meant lots of other things too … campfires, sparklers, the infamous creek rope swing, smoke bombs (yes, my cousin Kevin and I did manage to get into some trouble), card games and trips to the great Balldinger’s World Famous candy store to load up on sugar and Garbage Pail Kids trading cards.
And let’s face it; it didn’t really matter how many fish we caught at the end of the day. Those weekends were about family traditions and spending time with the people you love.
We sold our family’s cottage last year after my grandfather passed away because it became too much of a burden for my grandmother to maintain on her own. It was a hard decision for everyone. This year, none of us will be going back, but we will certainly be thinking about the memories from years past.
And because I’ll be 2,500 miles away from my dad this year on Father’s Day here in Los Angeles, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a trip down to the Hermosa Beach pier with a fishing pole to pay a tribute to the people that have been so good to me my entire life.
But, if I can’t find someone to put the worm on the fishing hook for me, maybe I’ll just try out that Bert and Ernie tactic. I’m sure it’s bound to work at some point … right, Dad?