I don’t know what it is about me and the Catskills,
But whenever I drive north on Rt. 17
into Sullivan County, Monticello, South Fallsburg,
I feel comfort here.
There’s something about the stucco facade of an old hotel,
Even if the shutters are swinging off the hooks,
Window paint peeling, glass shattered,
The wooden porches sagging,
I’m always brought back to a pine-paneled kitchen
Crowded with chattering mothers,
The air stuffed with tangy cooking smells,
I’m holding a tin pail filled with just-picked blueberries,
Purple juice stains the corners of my mouth,
I know in a few short hours
My father will arrive from the city
for a weekend in the mountains,
For dinner we’ll eat cold cherry soup
fresh-killed chicken, carrot tsimis
and chilled melon slices for dessert,
On Saturday we’ll swim in the lake
with the spongy sand bottom and sharp rocks,
My father will hoist me onto his strong shoulders,
We’ll wade deep into dark green water
unsure of the depth and sudden drops,
But at that moment I will feel safe in his grasp
not thinking about the day in the future
when his grip is no longer
the measure of my safety.

~Norma Ketzis Bernstock