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Cottage Chronicle #17: Rome Home

By Mary Lowengard

AH, AUGUST—soft summer breezes, twilight tennis and back-to-school trips to Target. It’s arguably the best month of the Bucknoll summer, something I realized to the fullest when I rented out my cottage in August one year. Between Memorial and Labor Day there’s just 14 weeks. Missing those two left a hole in my heart not even the borderline usurious rates I charged for use of my cottage could fill.

Yet, I became aware over time that there are a certain number of cottagers who regularly take leave of Bucknoll in the summer months without shedding a single tear. Not just to attend a mandatory family event elsewhere, or for work-related reasons, but to actually get away from Bucknoll. 

Welcome to the Club Méditerranée du Poconos

This totally baffled me. Why would anyone leave this Pocono paradise in prime time? Might it be the breakneck pace of athletic, social and spiritual activities that transforms our sleepy little cottage community into a veritable Club Méditerranée  du Poconos? That is, once Bucknollers have shaken off the winter snows, scraped spring mud from their boots and recovered from the sting of four-figure propane bills. Or is it that other places might offer something that—horrors—Bucknoll lacks? I set out to Scooby Doo the situation.

Turns out, there are many answers to this single not-so-simple question.

Year-Rounders Fatigue Syndrome

I started out by seeking comments from year-round residents. Perhaps for them, sneaking away for a couple of weeks is somewhat justifiable, given what they put up with in the off-season months (Winter and Mud). Or for that matter, the in-season months. Perhaps it might be they want to get away from arrivistes like, well, me—the types that are hogging the tennis courts (or, others on the golf course) over four-day weekends all summer long while claiming to be “working from home.”

My first interviewee was Roxanne Luce, a year-rounder who openly shared she has beaten a path to Prouts Neck, Maine, for two weeks in August for several years running. However, she has now decided instead to trade her summer Maine time for a stint on Sanibel Island during the month of February and stick around for August. 

Would you give up a summer weekend in the Poconos for this? Maybe once in a blue moon. / iStock.

Still,  Roxy is not completely off the hook as a Bucknoll summer deserter. This year, she confessed she scurried in early July across the Atlantic to visit La Ville Lumière, the City of Light or City of Lights, whichever side of this argument you prefer. Either way, it’s Paris. But just for a couple of days, to celebrate her daughter’s finishing a degree at NYU. Yes, she took Emily too. This seemed perfectly reasonable to me, especially as she promises she won’t be making a habit of it.

Off the Premises Down the Shore

The Blancos, another full-time Bucknoll family, maintain a “second home” at Dudley Beach, a tiny resort down the Jersey Shore. The idea that their “first home” is located where my “second home” abides was at first a little confusing, especially because their second home is near where I had my first summer rental. 

But I totally get the beach vs. mountains vacation bifurcation. The Blancos have no set schedule for heading to their beach shack, with weather forecasts and traffic flow being the predominant variables that determine when they set off. Plus maybe also the preponderance of obnoxious Bucknoll four-day-weekenders on campus plays a role. 

Nan Blanco considers Dudley Beach a sand-and-surf Bucknoll doppelganger, though the Mud season that truly distinguishes our Bucknoll environs is replaced by the thrills of upwardly mobile hurricanes. Again, because the Blanco family resides full-time in Bucknoll their defection doesn’t trouble me too much since it’s a second-home situation and does offer a yin-yang perspective to their life. I’m not sure which is the yin, and which is the yang; I’ll leave that up to them.

Obligatory Family Reunions

Then there are those who excuse themselves during summer to fulfill family obligations, in states beyond the Eastern seaboard and abroad. For the families with far-flung relatives, it is indeed the best or perhaps the only time to visit. Which does beg the question, Why not just lure their family members to Bucknoll? 

I can answer that.

The plain hard truth is that Bucknoll is not everyone’s cup of chowder. My own mother has been a hard sell, mainly because Nantucket is her True North. Even though her house was sold 10 years before Bucknoll was a twinkle in my eye, the faraway island remains, annoyingly, her touchstone. While over the years I was able to lure her out occasionally for long weekends, after two or three visits she began to politely turn me down. “It’s lovely, Mare,” she’d say. The unspoken other half of that sentence, I knew,  was, “but it’s not Nantucket.”

Bucknoll Long-Haulers

Some who travel farther to reach their cottages than the reasonable typical two-hourish  commute from the Philly or New York City environs seem more likely to be keen on wandering off-campus in summer. Representative of this contingent is Floridian Charlotte Castle, who told me she leaves her Bucknoll roost to take a break from the ticks and because she’s on a mission to tick off places on her Bucket List and summer is the time to do this. She just spent two weeks in Bar Harbor. Coming up:  Alaska, Bora Bora, Morocco, Thailand and Spain. But not all this year.

As Maine lobster goes, so goes the nation. / Photo by Mary Lowengard.

Ratcheting up the second-home lifestyle a notch is a number of Bucknollers who have three or four residences in their portfolio of no-place-like-home homes. Thus, they have to triangulate (or quarterate) their lives to squeeze in visits to their alternative second or third homes. One family, originally Philadelphians, migrated west a few years back, establishing a Denver residence but held onto their Bucknoll and Sebasco, Maine,  properties as well. (I’ll admit that Maine offers two things Bucknoll sadly lacks: salt water and just-trapped lobster.) 

Island Breezes

Another couple, Mark and Nora Caro, bounce between a quartet of homes in Brooklyn, Bucknoll, Deer Isle (sigh, Maine again) and yet another island in Arkansas near where Nora grew up. So, when they leave Bucknoll, they aren’t so much going “away” as going “home.” To any of three others.

Maine, again. / Photo by Mary Lowengard.

What is wholly cray cray to me is when I hear Bucknollers bragging that they are bailing for places like the lake district of Lombardy when we have perfectly equivalent lakes spitting distance (almost) away.  

When I heard that one neighbor jumped ship late one summer for Lake Como, I questioned what exactly was wrong with Lake Wallenpaupack just up the road and pointed out we have the functional equivalent of the Italian Alps in our backyard and more than enough pizzerias to go around. Her excuse: It was already the “off season,” as she left the day after Labor Day. 

Turns out there is a Lake Como just due north of Honesdale, which is just north of Bucknoll. And if you keep heading north eventually you hit Rome. Rome, New York that is. 

After all, there’s no place like . . .  never mind.


Mary Lowengard really did own a country cottage once upon a time somewhere in Pennsylvania. She changed names to protect the innocent, and thanks KW, JM, JAR and Woody, who made these stories possible. For the full story, click here

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