I learned a few things on my summer vacation. For one, it is possible to sleep three hours, fly to New Hampshire, tromp all over an unfamiliar cemetery in an unfamiliar city, find the grave of your Irish born great-grandmother (actually, my son spotted it – way to go, Noah!), buy food to feed 31 for a whole weekend and then shoe-horn it and two lanky teenagers into a VW Beetle – and then, with their help, begin hosting a family reunion in an unfamiliar cabin equipped with a sketchy stove and other random kitchen supplies, a mere 24 hours later.
Yup, it can be done. It’s not for the faint of heart, mind you, but it can be done. But only because my kids are awesome. In the over five years I’ve written this column, I don’t believe I’ve ever come right out and said that, but they are. Their dad wasn’t along on this trip as he’d just barely returned from a two-week teaching trip to China, but I knew I could pull this off with my kids’ help. For example, at the food co-op I handed Noah a recipe and told him to hunt up all of the necessary ingredients for my black bean soup.
So what if a couple of the cans of black beans were actually flavored with bacon (and one didn’t even contain black beans at all, haha), the soup turned out OK! Especially once I got the burners re-lit. In the meantime, my capable kids sprinted back and forth to a neighboring cabin several dozen yards away and got the cornbread baked, mere moments before my dear Uncle Bill and Aunt Linda checked into it. Good times.
Another thing I learned? I’m not too old to use a rope swing. No-siree. Noah and my cousins spotted one as they paddled across the lake, and as they sat in their kayaks discussing just how totally awesome it would be to use it, the swing’s owner appeared.
Not only did she volunteer its use, but she pointed out the nearby diving board, which Holly and I also got to use when the boys brought us back the next morning. Even more fun, perhaps, was laughing ’til I cried, when Holly showed me the video of my maiden voyage off said rope swing after the last of our company departed on Sunday afternoon and we collapsed in a giddy heap on a couch in our cabin.
We giggled some more, a little while later, when, during a drive up the hill on our quest for a stunningly scenic view of the White Mountains, we happened upon a sheep who was all “baaa” and no bite when he crossed our path and refused to budge. On our way back down the mountain we learned that his name is “Circus.” What a funny little guy.
We also learned that it is, in fact, quite possible to enjoy watching a World Cup soccer game on a cellphone. What a good sport Noah is. Our cabin, thank goodness, was not equipped with a television, but who needed one when there was plenty to entertain us right outside our front door? Like a tranquil lake, tons of green, an enormous, star-filled sky (thanks to the lack of light pollution, I was able to spot two shooting stars!), and night music more soothing than anything on any iPod. And loons, oh, the loons, who sang their mournful song as the sun set and floated and fished and fed the wee ones on their backs. My son fished, too. It was pure bliss to watch him, from the comfort of my cozy bed, as the early morning fog lifted all around him as he fished from the dock. My grateful heart swells again just thinking about it.
Yes indeed, we’re already plotting our return to this magical place.
After we packed up the next morning (and the kids attempted to cook a S’more on the hood of the Volkswagen – Holly says it was tasty!) we drove through Vermont toward Grandma’s in upstate New York. When the kids were toddlers we lived in Maine and made this trip many times, so we revisited our favorite pitstops along the way. Including one at the Quechee Gorge, where we hiked and I took a refreshing quick dip in the 165 foot deep water of the Ottauquechee River (I’d forgotten it was that deep!). Next, Holly and I spent a few minutes window shopping in oh-so-quaint Woodstock, and then we made our last stop, at the White Cottage snack bar. I got to savor, once more, their amazing fried clams as I dipped my toes into the river that flows by its back door.
At Grandma’s, who is planning a move, we packed boxes and played Boggle and ran errands and cleaned out the garage. The kids discovered, there, a pair of apparently orphaned, newborn mice, whom Holly and I delivered to a wildlife rehabilitator (we watched her feed a baby bat, too!). At Grandma’s new house we measured for appliances and then measured my children, whose latest heights are now recorded on the doorjamb of her new kitchen. She’s having new counters and flooring installed, but the kids and I scrubbed her cupboards and removed age-old contact paper. Two layers of the stuff. Did you know that you can use a hairdryer to loosen it? Thanks to the Internet, we learned that, too.
Last, but not least, we enjoyed a meal of my mother’s chicken and rice, a staple of my youth and the perfect comfort food for my last night in my childhood home. Yup, times, they are a changin’, but we’ll have fun learning how to journey through them, too.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.