This is one of the stories I read on Sunday, May 7, as part of the Spring Writes Literary Festival. I was reading at The History Center, photo included at the bottom.
That summer we were going to share a cabin with the Rubins at Bobkin’s Bungalow Colony in the Catskills. For months Mom and her best friend, Gloria Rubin, had been planning all the details, staying up late in one kitchen or the other with their laughter and schemes.
By the end of June we crammed into Gloria’s green Dodge Dart, Mom sitting up front and my sister Laura and I scrunched into the back with Cookie Rubin, the snottiest girl you’d ever hope not to meet.
It was a rocky trip, because neither Mom nor Gloria knew how to drive, and by the time we arrived in the mountains they were no longer friends. Before we could even unpack, we were thrown out.
"The bathroom's too small for all your toothbrushes," Gloria Rubin said, and since she’d been the one to pay the deposit, we had to go.
Mom dragged Laura and me to a shed called the Main Office. Buddy Bobkin, who ran the place, shook his head and said “Sorry, young ladies, we are all booked up,” and Mom said “Kids, prepare yourselves to schvitz to death in the city this summer,” and Laura began to cry.
So then Buddy said “Well, maybe I have something, but you won’t like it,” and Mom said “We’ll take it,” and it turned out to be a chicken coop.
“Converted chicken coop,” Buddy Bobkin said. I wondered what religion had to do with it.
We moved right in. Laura and I put our clothes in wooden crates because there weren’t any dressers.
Mom unpacked the pots and pans and put them on the shelves where chickens used to sit and lay their eggs.
Over the next few days everyone from the bungalow colony (except Gloria, who we now called Mrs. Rubin, and her awful daughter, Cookie) came to see us and they said “You’ve done wonders with this place, Eve,” and Mom said “Stay for breakfast, I’m making omelets,” but no one ever did.
I think they were afraid they’d find chicken feathers in their eggs, and they would have, too.
There were chicken feathers everywhere. They fell on our eyelids when we slept, and they found their way into our bathing suits, where we hung them out to dry on nails.
We didn’t mind. We were the only family in the history of Bobkin’s Bungalow Colony to spend the entire summer in a chicken coop. And that made us special.
On the weekends, when Dad came up to visit, he’d go “cluck, cluck, cluck” until Mom said “Stop it Morty, it’s converted.”