There were only four of us in the pool the other day. We decided four was a nice number. There was plenty of room to bobble around on a noodle or stretch at the side of the pool. Two of us grew up on the east coast. I came from Massachusetts by way of Maine, the other from upstate New York. (It is always interesting that the state of New York is really two places: New York and upstate New York. My husband grew up in Cooperstown, NY and he assures me there is a big difference between THE CITY and upstate NY.) The pool conversation turned to talking about games we played in those wonderful big old houses.

Catherine told the  story of friends who were visiting one weekend. One of the visitors was feeling ill and went to bed early. The next morning she was up before everyone else and when Catherine finally got up, the friend asked, “Can you explain why there are foot prints in the bathtub?”

If you’ve never had the fun of playing sardines, (and the west coast Poolette friends hadn’t,) the general idea is that one person goes and hides. The rest count to a specified number and then scatter about the house to look for the hidden person. When you find the person, rather that holler that you found him, you crawl in with the person. Slowly the place fills up and the last person to find the group is “it” for the next round. It is a great rainy day game but it definitely needs a big house with lots of nooks and crannies. My daughter says the real winner in her mind is the person who found the very best placed to hide.

Our summers on Cape Cod had just the house. It was big and the nooks included a hiding spot under the stairs, lots of cupboards, and window boxes down a hallway. All the young guests and cousins would join in. By the time there were three of four people crammed into a tight spot, the giggles would often lead the rest to the hiding hole.
I moved away from summers on the Cape to Virginia when I got  married. The kids arrived and we did have wonderful, but short, visits to the Cape when they were little. Then came the BIG MOVE to the west. The kids were 5-7-9-10 and the travel to the Cape became economically impossible. But it also provided us with a new kind of vacation, possibly a new variety of sardines.

We had purchased a tent during our last year in the east. I had never been camping. I had always summered on the Cape. We drove to the mountains of Virginia and set up the tent in a park with other campers. The kids were in heaven. We cooked over a camp stove and we slept on the hard ground in cozy sleeping bags. Ugh… It was a very hard ground but I was not going to complain. It was fun. The kids loved it but……. On the way home in the car my husband made the suggestion that we buy two cots. Whew! What a difference. Sardine camping became very comfortable.   A five-week camping trip to Nova Scotia ended our east coast camping. We moved west and the tent and cots came with us. We camped every summer up and down the west coast. We slid down the sand dunes in Oregon and crossed the border into Canada and found new adventures every year.

Then we bought a sail boat, of course. We always had a sail boat – even in Virginia, actually it was suburban Wash DC – but not a cruising sail boat. When we went searching for the sail boat, for some reason, two of our kids were not with us. I suppose they were off visiting friends. So we were a family of four looking at possible boats. I remember clearly the sales man saying to us as we looked longingly over a Cal 25, that this was just the right size for us. It slept four, two bunks in the bow and two in the cabin. Perfect, except for the two kids at home.

We bought the boat and somehow it was sailed to Bellingham, I don’t recall how. We anchored it by our house and one weekend set out for a weekend cruise… with all four kids. The men, dad and son, slept in the bow. The 3 girls and I got the two bunks in the cabin. Two of them were small enough to sleep foot to foot on one bunk. The oldest girl got the floor and I got the other bunk.  Any trips to the head were before we would settle in to sleep…This was almost a game of sardines with no winner and often not a lot of giggling.
The kids grew bigger and we found we were traveling with friends who had room for one of our kids, or we took tents and camped on the shore. Eventually the boat was sold and a smaller one was purchased for racing in the weekend races. No more boat camping.

One summer I found a deal of a trip..I could take the train from Vancouver, BC to Montreal and fly to the Cape. We could have a summer on the Cape that the kids would love. My sister would be there, and her kids, and other cousins from near by. We had two double-decker beds on the train. There were five of us but the littlest at age 8 could squeeze in with someone. After all, they did on the sail boat, why not on the train? Sardines again.

My husband stayed home. He missed a great trip.
We rode through the mountains and the flat areas visiting people up and down the train. My son spent much of the time in the baggage car with several other young boys. The girls visited people and made friends, occasionally bringing a new friend back to visit me and then disappearing down the corridors to visit that child’s parents. I am not sure I would do this today, but then it was great. I knew the kids would not get off the train when it stopped for fear of not being able to get back on. We traveled for three and half days, four kids age 8-10-12-13. We had lots of luggage and three guitars. When the dining car closed after meals were served, bingo games began and we played bingo till we could not keep our eyes open and then crawled into our bunks rattling along the rails. Train sardines.

I mention all this in my sardine story because when we got to that big family house – it came up again. There we were and it was a rainy day… not a good day for the beach. So all the kids “invented” a new game. They went hiding in some of the old familiar places and my sister and I sat there and laughed. They were playing sardines. And they even found some new places to hide. Who would have thought of lying on the top of the book cases in the attic?

Slice of Life story challenge – see Two Writing Teachers link

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5 Responses to sardines

  1. Annie Campbell says:

    Sardines! What a great way to tell a story and connect the past to the present. And you do this so gracefully!

  2. jeeyoung says:

    Great story~! I loved playing hide & seek when I was younger. Kids these days are missing out with all their tv and computers!

  3. Stacey says:

    There’s no question that upstate and downstate are like two different places!
    As an aside, I always laughed when people told me they lived upstate & then I’d find out they lived in Orange or Rockland Counties. To me (I lived in Manhattan), that always seemed very downstate. Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca… now those places are upstate!

  4. blkdrama says:

    I love this story too and play along! And yes, There’s upstate NY and NYC and then I live in the middle, Nyack, NY…. I love it all… Great state but I’m closer to the better weather.


  5. Ruth Ferris says:

    What a delightful story. Thank you for sharing your memories – I could envision it as I read along. As a kid we played hide and seek.

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