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MARTHA SEZ: They’re not terrorists, Jimmy, just tourists

August 11, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

August in the Adirondacks. Parents from all over the United States and Canada are taking their vacations from work, packing their children into the car and swarming up North. Or down South, if they happen to be coming from Canada.

It is so hard for us Adirondackers to admit to being south of anyplace. If you consult your globe, however, you will find that we are well below Paris, London, Dublin and even Venice, not to mention all of Scandinavia. Never mind.

Should you happen to work in retail, you might dread the influx of visiting children, but I find they are often better behaved and less likely to break the merchandise than their parents, besides being much more entertaining in general.

Yes, hanging out with children can be fun. And then on the other hand it can be a dreadful experience for all concerned. Mixing the generations is a tricky thing, because children and grown-ups simply do not see eye to eye.

Unless of course the child is standing on something. A small child may do this in an attempt to make you believe that he has suddenly sprouted up, large and menacing. While adults are inordinately fond of remarking "My, how you've grown!" at every opportunity-a practice which bores children to the point of utter stupefaction-any pediatrician will tell you that growth spurts are actually never this sudden. If a boy who stood only knee high earlier in the day is suddenly looking you in the eye, he is almost certainly standing on a chair.

The chair-standing ruse is the oldest trick in the book. The child is attempting to confuse and/or intimidate you. Don't fall for it, or he will continue to loom over you at every opportunity, holding up his tiny hands in a rather unconvincing imitation of Tyrannosaurus rex, growling and demanding candy or souvenirs.

Even a very young child is aware that T. rex is extinct-or, as she would put it, "Dinosaurs are not in real life," or "There's no such things" -but is willing to bet that you don't know it. Furthermore, she thinks that she can fool you into believing that she herself is a huge, carnivorous, prehistoric reptile.

Children who vacation in the Adirondacks are apt to be afraid of all the wrong things. One little boy burst into tears when told about his parents' plan to picnic on Giant Mountain.

"I knew about the bears," he said, "but nobody told me about the giants."

A local child was terrified when the summer people began to arrive this summer, and his parents didn't know why. Finally they realized that when they said the tourists were coming to town he thought they were talking about terrorists.

You would think that teenagers would be able to see eye to eye with their parents. Think again. Just because your high-school age children no longer pretend to be dinosaurs, don't imagine that you understand the way their minds work. Hard to believe we used to think the same way ourselves.

My old friend Vince and I were reminiscing about our high-school days. Remember when Mark Henderson got his driver's license and drove his mom's Grand Prix into Quarton Lake? Yeah, he thought he was Parnelli Jones. Or Sterling Moss. Anyway, he took the turn too fast, and the car slid into Quarton Lake and sank into the muck up to its door handles.

Quarton Lake was in fact no lake at all. In my grandparents' day it was called the Old Mill Pond, just as Keene Central School's Lake Winifred is known locally as the School Pond. These two bodies of water are of a similar size, but, unlike Lake Winifred, Quarton Lake was, at the time the Grand Prix slid into it, polluted by seeping septic systems, and reeked of sewage, especially in the summertime.

"Remember how mean we thought Mark's mother was, making him hose out the car?" I asked Vince. "Who did we think was supposed to clean it?"

"Well, Mark's mom, of course," Vince said. "It was her car."

When you stop to think about it, vacationing with small children isn't such a bad idea, even if you occasionally have to pretend they are bears or dinosaurs. After all, before they turn 14 or so, children actually like to hang out with you. You won't see eye to eye. Still, seeing the Adirondacks through a child's eyes can be a beautiful thing.

Have a good week.



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