From Grandma’s Album… Summer Visiting – Chesapeake Bay summer cottages
My recollection today is of a jovial atmosphere at all of our many family visits. It was always an expectation of a good time. “Oh, great, we’re gonna have *fun*! I can’t wait until Saturday.” And so it was without fail.
Summers are busy times, especially after the uncles (as was a Baltimore City custom), each bought Chesapeake Bay shore acreage for summer use. The “shores” were all diverse and relatively distant from each other, so it was a real treat and adventure to see how our uncles built up the land, their summer cottages, their gardens, and braced their bulkheads. I supposed my Dad, as Starosta, felt it a patriarchal duty to observe his siblings in their new adventure, buying and improving this vacation property.
We were always greeted with cafe a kolach (coffee and a special Czech pastry) which often really meant milk and cookies for us kozichki, (kids, literally “little goats”) to take out and crumble and spill all over the green grass under the shade trees that the brothers had planted, while the adults gathered in the spotless kitchens around a table with a lovely embroidered cloth to drink endless cups of black coffee and eat plate after plate of kolac.
Oh, kolachki! Light and flaky yeast-raised dough, filled with fruit, or almond paste, or mak (poppy seed filling), each Aunt had her own style. My Mother’s dough was not sweet and she sprinkled hers with powdered sugar and nutmeg. Aunt Louise made a sugar cookie-type dough in tiny delicate squares and cut the edges with a pinking cutter. Aunt Rose was always experimenting with different fruit fillings, and Aunt Barbara made the *huge* ones that were thickly smeared with honey and then sprinkled with large-grain sugar before being baked. Yummy!
There was always a tour of the new things “around the place”, gardens especially, and then we all split up, the uncles exclaiming over tools and fishing gear, the Aunts ooh-ing and ah-ing over clothes and curtains and furniture. Aunt Louise created a sensation once with a tablecloth that was machine embroidered. The other Aunts couldn’t believe it!
There would be a big mid-day meal, something different each time, but displaying the cooking skills of the whole family, especially in the 50’s when the men made “American Barbeque” their special treat, along with hamburgers and hotdogs and other foods that appealed to us kids. Often during the summers, the main dishes of the meal were freshly-caught fish or Chesapeake Blue Channel crabs. As we each grew up and learned our own skills we were encouraged to contribute, the custom continuing even to when my own daughter was learning to bake, each dish being proudly exclaimed over as evidence of burgeoning talent. Her first was a cherry pie at the age of 4, with crooked and slightly scorched swirls of dough on top for decoration. It tasted good, though.
Later in the day there were games and swimming and fishing and in the heat of the afternoon, sitting by the water in big Adirondack chairs or new-fangled aluminum ones, with long glasses of iced tea or beer for the Uncles with little plates of nibbles. Sometimes, when Aunt Louise made them, there were Sashki, little rye flour cookies that looked delicious, but were “hotter’n’ ta hinges o’ hell!”, being made without sugar and rolled in Old Bay seasoning, just as the crabs were! The Uncles told stories and carved spoons and other small decorative items until the mosquitoes came out and everyone went inside to get away from them.
A wedding anniversary visit to Uncle Tony’s brought a long-remembered story into the family history. He said, as a toast when all were at table, “Here’s to today, July 4th, when you all celebrate the gaining of Independence and I lost mine!” Everyone roared with laughter, and his giggling wife Barushka (Barbara) turned the same color as the tomatoes in the salad!
Uncle Jim moved all over the place, always on Middle River, so I don’t remember any one particular spot, but he shared his shore place with Aunt Rose’s parents and they always had a large house, not just a cottage, splitting at the seams with guests.
I remember one notable visit to Uncle Jerry’s on Sue Creek off of Middle River. This was many years after they first built their chaloupka (cottage) and began to plant and improve. “Welcome to Little Checia!” he smilingly greeted us, as we arrived at the pier in our new boat. Lovely Aunt Louise, in her beautifully embroidered apron of Czech design said, “Vitame Vas!” (welcome) and proceeded to take us on the royal tour, especially to her vast and lovely vegetable garden, of which we were to partake shortly. The repast was gargantuan, with delicious Czech foods, enough to feed an entire neighborhood! If anyone went hungry, it was NOT my aunt’s fault!
The rest of the afternoon was spent with the men fishing for those delicious yellow perch that Middle River was so proud of, and crabbing with Cousins Rose and Bess, rousing ballgames for all ages, and playing horse-shoes for the men. Lots of news and gossip was exchanged with the other aunt, uncle and cousin guests.
All too soon as the sun threatened to set, we needed to start for our own shore in Lynch Cove off the Patapsco. There were lingering farewells, hugs and last bits of gossip and then we got into our boats and cars and headed home in the twilight, waving our “thank-you goodbyes” for a delightful visit.
Page added and published 8/24/18 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updated 8/24/18
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