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On Living… (before you leave it)

05 Jun

As a voracious reader, I will sometimes hesitate to read a book for which I am excited. It will sit on my bedside table for weeks, or even months. Because I know it will affect me. Perhaps even devastate me. See, I’m a very emotional reader. I get invested in books, in fictional worlds and characters. I feel things very deeply, even when they aren’t happening to me, even if they never really happened. (However, using that phrase brings to mind one of my favorite ever quotes, unsurprisingly uttered by that most wise of fictional characters, Albus Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”) So many things that affect me are often only happening inside my head. And they are very real. Just a few days ago I finally picked up a book that has been sitting at the bottom of the stack on my bedside table for months. I eagerly ran out to buy it, but I knew it would destroy me. So it sat there at the bottom of the stack until I felt I could face it. Why, you might reasonably ask, would I buy a book that I knew would be difficult, perhaps even painful, to read? Partly, because I am a glutton for emotional punishment. One of my requirements for what makes a book good is that it make me feel something, anything, deeply. But in this specific case, because of the author.

Kerry Egan and I were classmates at Washington & Lee University. We were sorority sisters, and friends, the way most people were at such a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of small-town Virginia. We weren’t roommates, or besties, but I liked Kerry. She was sweet, and kind, and delightfully quirky. My kind of eccentric. Obviously, intelligent, you didn’t get to W&L without being so, but a far deeper thinker than I. At least, that’s what I always assumed. If I had to guess, I would have said she was a Philosophy major, or perhaps English, though to be honest, I don’t know, because I have forgotten in the ensuing 20+ years. But W&L is a small school, a utopia in a small-town, especially back in the early 90s, when our halcyon existence included wandering wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted, practically nightly live music, and the freedom to be exactly who we wanted to be. (As an aside: I cannot express enough how grateful I was to attend college in the age of grunge, where girls were “allowed” to wear flannel shirts and baseball caps, where dressing up included Laura Ashley instead of stilettos and micro-minis, and cell phone cameras and social media did not yet exist.) Kerry and I knew each other the way social friends at a small school in a small town do, with lots of overlapping mutual friends, and shared experiences. Over the course of the past 20 years, we have run into one another at reunions, and I have connected with her on Facebook. Through this, I have learned many things about her and her life, at least the life she shared publicly. She is even funnier than I remember, she went to divinity school, and she had a job I couldn’t even have imagined doing (hospice chaplain). What I didn’t know about Kerry was what a beautiful writer she is. This I discovered over the course of the past four days, after finally taking her book off the bottom of my to-be-read stack. Guess what? As predicted, it destroyed me. But in the most beautiful and productive way. And now I want to shout it from the mountaintops, I want to grab total strangers on the street and push her book on them, I want to buy copies for my loved ones as gifts.

I cannot strenuously enough recommend you read the book ON LIVING by Kerry Egan.

What is the book about, and how did I know that it would make me cry? On Living is a book borne of her experiences as a hospital and hospice chaplain. It is a book chock full of her own experiences with personal trauma. It is a collection of stories and secrets and advice passed on to her by hospice patients in the final months, weeks, days of their lives. It is a conversation with a friend. An unflinchingly honest, refreshingly self-deprecating, quick-witted friend who admits her mistakes, even her shame, with the same openness as her many triumphs. It is an uplifting romp through a scary landscape. It is a love song to life.

What it is not: On Living is not heavy-handed or condescending. It is not melancholy for the sake of shock or effect. It is not bible-thumping in its discussion of spirituality and faith. It is not a difficult read, despite the fact that the majority of the “characters” listed within have died.

This book made me laugh and smile every bit as much, actually more, than it made me cry. And it did make me cry. But it truly lives up to the billing on the dust jacket. This absolutely is a book about living, not dying. And I rose after finishing it, wishing to become, and willing to strive to become, profoundly compassionate and fiercely empathetic. Sometimes a book comes to you at just the right time, and with everything that is happening in the world today, as we experience a pervasive loss of civility, a seemingly spiraling decline of humanity, the time for this book is now. Never have we needed more to live in the gray. Never have we needed more to make that final promise to ourselves. (Read the book to find out what that promise should be.)

I sincerely hope that if my loved ones ever find the need for hospice services, they will have a chaplain who is willing to surround them in a bubble of love to provide a peaceful presence. I would be honored for any of my loved ones to share that time with Kerry. I hope that each of you will consider running out to buy this book, read it cover to cover, and allow it to affect your life.

I hope all of us will  find the courage to say our dying words well before dying.

And I hope, perhaps most importantly of all, that when I am in my 80s, I will still remember the feeling of the wind in my p*ssy…

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The Wine and Bread at Waffle House

08 Jan

Sometimes life conspires to put you in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. And you can call it the hand of God, or fate, or the vagaries of the universe, but for whatever reason, you have an experience that seems almost pre-ordained. This morning held one of those for me.

As mornings go, it had started off rather inauspiciously. Slept in, skipped walking the dog because of freezing temps, worked a little on my online ESOL course, and began packing away the Christmas ornaments. I had not yet eaten breakfast, nor dinner the night before, so I was feeling hungry. Mostly I began craving hash brown casserole from Cracker Barrel, a serious addiction of mine that I do not indulge as often as I would like. But it seemed ridiculous to drive 20+ minutes, one way, to eat breakfast alone at a crowded restaurant. Especially not when there is a Waffle House mere minutes away from my home! So, rather on a whim, I quickly exchanged my flannel pajama pants for jeans, shoved a W&L baseball cap over my bedhead, and headed out the door. Not surprisingly, it was crowded at the WH, and I ended up waiting a few minutes for a seat at the counter. When a couple finished up and left, the hostess wiped down their place settings, and offered me the stool at the far left end of the counter. I shed my jacket, and began perusing the menu. Within minutes, the seat to my right was filled by an older, white-haired gentleman, wearing wire-rim glasses and a bright blue jacket. He leans over, and asks, “Are you left-handed?” Seeing as my dear friend, Chris, is left-handed, and I am conscious of seating arrangements when with him, I assumed the man was asking because he himself was left-handed. I answered, “I’m not, but are you?” He smiled, and confirmed that he was, and proceeded to say, “We’ll just have to be careful.” I told him that was silly. That, of course, we should switch seats. He smiled, and said, “No, no, I don’t want to be a bother, we’ll just be careful.” I insisted that it was no trouble at all, that I didn’t mind, and I hadn’t even ordered yet, so it was the only thing that made sense. As I got up to switch to be on his right, he was more grateful that I felt necessary, as it was such a small gesture on my part. Cost me nothing, and made me feel good about being able to do something nice for another human being. He looked at me as he settled in to my left and said, “You’ve done a good deed on a Sunday.” I smiled, and said, “Well, I try to do good deeds every day of the week.”

After we ordered, he commented on my Harvard sweatshirt, and asked if I was a graduate. I said no, and then pointed to my hat, and said, “Actually, I’m a graduate of Washington & Lee University.” I was surprised when his face brightened, and he said, “Oh, what a beautiful campus! It’s really lovely there.” Gobsmacked, as I always am when someone knows Washington & Lee, especially random strangers sitting next to me at the Waffle House, I said something like, “You know Washington & Lee?” He laughed, and said, “Yes, of course! Wonderful history. I did not know that Lee had been president there after the war, and is now buried on the campus. Interesting to learn more about him, and his horse.” This started a short conversation about the campus, most specifically about the president’s home, and the tradition of always keeping the garage door open so the spirit of Traveller can get back to his stall any time he would like. At a break in the conversation I asked the gentleman if he was from this area, or just traveling through. He said that he was traveling through to join some friends to watch the National Championship game. (Actually, he said, “the game that Clemson is playing in,” which was kind of too cute for words.) He mentioned that usually he eats at Cracker Barrel, but had decided last minute to not fight the crowds at CB and just make a quick stop at Waffle House. I wondered, briefly, if we would have ended up at the same Cracker Barrel. What a shame that would have been, since we wouldn’t have been seated in such a communal way.

He then mentioned that he was originally form Buffalo, NY, but had been stationed in the Clemson area for many years in the service of campus ministry for the Catholic students. This clicked into place, because when his food had been placed in front of him, he did more than a casual blessing; it was far more ritualistic, including the sign of the cross, and I had immediately thought to myself: “This man is a priest.” He then mentions that he knew a lawyer in Anderson, SC, who went to Washington & Lee. When he mentioned Anderson I almost choked on my toast. I told him I knew Anderson, that my best friend from college was from there, and that my own family was from Honea Path, just down the road. When he mentioned that I must be busy in my profession in a large city like Jacksonville, I realized that having told him I was a graduate of W&L Law, he had naturally assumed I was a lawyer. I informed him that I was, in fact, not a practicing attorney, but had chosen to stay home with the child I was pregnant with when I took the Bar, and his succeeding siblings.  That I experienced a recent career change, and I was now a teacher. It was gratifying for him to respond, “That makes perfect sense. Of course, you are.” Our conversation turned to World History, and I explained that we were currently covering the origins of Judaism, to which he replied that he had recently had the opportunity to study in Jerusalem, and he highly recommended the experience. Naturally, this was the segue into a discussion about my time spent studying in Rome, practically in the shadow of Vatican City.

He had been to Rome several times, but was envious of my having lived there for an entire semester. We talked about a mutual love of just wandering the city, exploring. I told him about what easily qualifies as the most spiritual experience of my life, wandering blindly into a church and finding myself alone with Bernini’s “St. Teresa in Ecstasy.” And he said that he had found it the very same way. That his order has been assigned to the church just across the street, and he had been there several times without realizing that he had a Bernini as his next door neighbor until wandering in one day and discovering it. I was about to tell him that Bernini was my all-time favorite artist, but then Caravaggio flashed into my mind and I amended my statement to, “Bernini is easily my all-time favorite…well, sculptor, anyway.” The gentleman then went on to tell me that the last time he had been in Rome he spent some time wandering about to find Pope Francis’ favorite Caravaggio (The Calling of St. Matthew, in case you’re wondering). When he said that I literally threw my hands up in the air. For goodness sakes, never in my entire life would I have imagined having a meaningful discussion about my favorite painter with a random stranger in a Waffle House, and have that stranger be the one that mentioned Caravaggio by name! We proceeded to have a wonderful discussion about the symbolism of the painting, the potential meanings, the details of the figures, the composition, and Caravaggio’s use of light. (George Bent, it would have made you weep with happiness!)

We spoke a little more about life, Rome, art, the importance of travel and history, and the noble profession of teaching. It was by all measure, an intensely agreeable meeting, and a validation that goodness and kindness not only exist in the world around us, but that every human we encounter has something to offer us from their own story. As he finished eating, he told me that today was Epiphany. When I remarked that I thought it was yesterday, he said, “Well, technically, it was the 6th, but we changed it.” (I love that he said “we” and he meant the Catholic church!) “We changed it because more people will go to church on a Sunday, and therefore more people will celebrate and learn the true meaning of Epiphany.” I nodded that his explanation certainly made sense, as he continued, “And on Epiphany you are meant to get a gift, so this is my gift to you. You have made my new year.” He promptly scooped up my bill, stacked it with his, and took out cash to cover them both. As I protested that his generous gesture was completely unnecessary, that I had simply enjoyed meeting and speaking with him, he insisted. He said it was his gift to me. He then turned in his seat, and asked my first name. I told him, “Krista,” and he took my one hand in both of his as he said, “Mine is Jim.” He then got up, and walked to the restroom. As I sat there marveling about our lovely and truly serendipitous encounter, he emerged from the bathroom, and before walking out paused to place his hand lightly on my shoulder to say with a smile on his face, “It is delightful that your name is not just the icing on the cake, but rather the wine and bread. God bless.”

I did not get his last name. It is unlikely that I will ever encounter him again. But Father Jim has just become a part of my life. He is validation of the good in people, and in the world at large. Our encounter put a smile on my face, and in my heart. We were two strangers thrown together in the most unlikely circumstances, from different backgrounds, different religions, entirely different generations, who found a huge amount of common ground. What a joy. The universe, the hand of God, fate, or whatever you want to call it, put us both there at the same time, in the same place. Perhaps for nothing more than to remind us in this new year that peace and understanding are possible, that interactions with other people can be lovely, and that everyone has something to teach us.

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Day Twenty-Two: Tap Out

06 Jul

The driving day from Hell. Aka, 469 miles of misery. An unwelcome serendipitous deviation. A bad day on the road.

Which was unfortunate, because it actually started off really great. I slept in a super comfy bed, and was not awakened at the crack of dawn. Had an amazing omelette for breakfast. Got everyone in the car at a reasonable time (shortly after 9:00am), and was able to say fond goodbyes to our fabulous hosts. Went right by a 7-11 and was able to procure my caffeine early. Traffic was light on our way out of northern Virginia. Stopped for an early lunch at a Chick-fil-a. Yet somewhere after that it all started sliding off the rails for me…

You might think from my description of our cocktails that my problem today might be of the hangover variety. I assure you, it was not. I paced my previous nights indulgences, had plenty to eat, had consumed caffeine, and had even slept quite soundly, and while maybe not as much as I typically need/prefer, certainly no less than I had any other night of CMRT. But after lunch I was feeling hella exhausted. Like having difficulty keeping my eyes open exhausted. Like (not to start any rumors because this is me speaking from past experience, not current circumstance) first trimester pregnancy exhausted. Not conducive to safe driving. Add on top of that, I started developing a pounding headache, a migraine that is a monthly visitor, coming along in cycle to completely ruin my day. If it was only one symptom, I might have been able to handle it with distractions (music, a good audiobook, talking on the phone with appropriate ear buds), or frequent rest stops, or continued caffeine consumption. But the combination of the two? Just too much. We were attempting to make our way from Chantilly, Virginia, to Richmond Hill, Georgia. Should have been approximately 585 miles. It was definitely meant to be our long driving day. And we were doing okay. But after awhile I was really suffering. And my focus turned to whether or not I should even still be driving. Along the time I started thinking that maybe we should attempt to find a large-dog-friendly hotel, I noticed an ominous gathering of clouds on the horizon to the west. Then I realized that they were actually moving rather rapidly towards us. By the time the rain began to fall, I had already located a Red Roof Inn (always dog friendly!) not too far down the highway. But I was still on the fence, because despite feeling like death on toast, I really, really wanted to make it to our destination. I was still on the fence right up to the point when the first gust of wind pushed my van around in my lane, and I watched as the second gust pushed an 18-wheeler over the center line. I got off the fence right quick. My speed had dropped by approximately 20 mph, conditions were only going to get worse, and while I was feeling more awake than ever, my headache was intense and causing me nausea. I just did not have the concentration, nor the stamina, necessary to navigate the final 120 miles. So, on a stormy evening in Santee, South Carolina, I tapped out.

After securing a room at the Red Roof Inn, I walked Remy, and we settled in. The kids watched a little television as I laid down and took a power nap. When I woke, I felt significantly less exhausted, however, my head was still pounding, and nausea was my constant companion. But despite all that, I needed to find some food. We left Remy in the room (probably not supposed to do that. Oops.) and headed out to procure some quick eats. I had originally promised the kids we might hit the Cracker Barrel, but seeing as how I couldn’t even imagine eating hashbrown casserole, which is one of my favorite things, I told them we needed another option. Beau had spotted a Pizza Hut right across from the hotel, so we ended up getting a pizza to go, to eat in the room. This was a fantastic option, because I fell back asleep, and never even ended up having any. But the kids got a filling dinner (it really did look like a good cheese pizza), and I got some more rest. Waking only long enough to tell the kids to brush teeth and turn off the tv, and briefly walk Remy, before falling back asleep for the night. While I was disappointed not to make it to our friends’ house, it was the right call. It wasn’t safe for us to be on the road; not with the inclement weather conditions, and not with me not feeling my sharpest and most focused. I’m not a quitter, but that was a totally warranted and perfectly reasonable tap out.

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Day Twenty-One: W&L Hospitality Wars

05 Jul

Sadly, our time at Chez Tison has come to a close, and it’s time to get back on the southbound trail. The Tisons were back to work & camp, and the Willims were back in the car. Our first stop? Westport, only a few miles down the road, to retrieve our dear Remy. Because of his “exit bath” he was fluffy and sweet smelling, though anxious as all get out, as we piled him back into the car. I cannot imagine the mental gymnastics this poor pooch has been going through these past few weeks. First I put him in the car for a four days sojourn northbound – including a stop in a home with a backyard like he’s used to, then a hotel room, then a jaunt into NYC and a night in a big city apartment, then arrival in absolute doggie nirvana, where we proceed to spend 2 full weeks. He was clearly under the impression that it was a relocation, not a vacation, and settled into his spoiled existence, where every day included hours of vigorous ball chasing along the edge of and into the water. Then, this halcyon time comes to a close with me packing the car, and driving several hours to drop him off at an unfamiliar kennel, and leave him there for 3 nights. To be fair, it came highly recommended, this kennel, and I did spring for the 3 play sessions a day package, where in addition to his indoor/outdoor run, he got to mingle with other dogs and have personal attention from kennel techs. But then, I pick him up and he realizes that I have not left him forever, just in time for him to go back into the car for another long day of driving. I think maybe we should have shared one of his Xanax.

As we are driving south, I am noticing my fuel range dip lower and lower. Deciding that it was probably best to fill the tank soon, I got off at the last exit before a long bridge, and started looking for a station. I’m in the groove, looking for the best place to stop when Avery pipes up from the back, “Are we still in New Jersey?” I had to think about it for a second, but did confirm that yes, in fact, we were still in New Jersey. When I asked her why, she responded simply, “Because that means you can’t pump your own gas. Someone else is going to do it for you.” For goodness sakes! Good thing I have her on this trip with me! I had totally forgotten that, and would have definitely been yelled at if I had exited my vehicle at the pumps. That was certainly some stress avoided. Who says the kids aren’t paying attention to my ceaseless prattling on with random facts?

Today, as we were hopping from one W&L home to another, the W&L Hospitality Wars were launched. A friendly competition, no doubt, but a fierce one. Well aware of the deluxe accommodations and generous hospitality provided at Chez Tison, there is a very high bar, but Pete, being the competitive sort that he is, was aiming to clear it. For those of you W&L alum following along, especially you class of ’95ers, I am here to tell you that Pete Tapley grew up good. Pete was always a super nice guy, fun to be around, smart, genuine, silly, funny. But I have to admit he was one I couldn’t picture grown up. It could have gone either way. He could have been stuck in immature frat guy mode eternally (you all know someone who fits that bill), or he could have turned into a fully functioning, productive member of society. I am happy to report that he is the latter, but still retains the joie de vivre that made him such a wonderful friend back in the day. Mr. Fitzwell still lives, but now he’s the husband to a beautiful, funny, intelligent and driven wife, and the father of two handsome, polite, funny, and talented teenage boys. And did I mention that he can cook? Wow. He can cook. So much so, that at dinner I was going back for seconds of his roasted broccoli, which is the single vegetable I have never been able to stomach. And his omelettes? To die for. He’s officially my omelette guy. (Don’t worry, Joe, you’re still my General Nostalgia guy. Always.)

Pete is the consummate host, and was gracious enough to take us all in, including Remy the fluffy beast; who promptly thanked him for his hospitality by vomiting on his kitchen rug. Embarrassing. And as I walked in the door, he had the first round of cocktails ready. In a glass emblazoned with the W&L Trident he poured a daiquiri over trident-shaped ice cubes. Off to a strong start. It’s always such fun catching up with an old friend. On a shaded, screened porch over a well-mixed cocktail or two, even better. Round two, was clearly meant to knock me over. Ever heard of a French 75? I probably should have been concerned when Pete asked, “Does gin offend you?” But I knew I was in good hands, and the resulting mix of gin & prosecco, with a little simple syrup and lemon juice was delightful and refreshing! Clearly, the W&L hospitality wars were about pacing. As the third and final round, which I nursed for quite a long time, was a mint julep, made with an abundance of fresh mint. (The Tisons had the multi-night advantage, where the Tapley residence was a single night stopover, so Pete was pulling out all the stops!) Dinner was delicious, and dessert was inspired. Why use marshmallows for s’mores when you can use stale Peeps?! The sugar coating caramelizes in the fire adding a unique and tasty flavor and texture addition. After dessert and some visiting out on the back patio, we headed inside for a little impromptu concert performed by their exceedingly talented 13 year old son, Wim. Remy was loving the attention being paid to him by their older son, Jack, and we all enjoyed listening to Wim play some of his original songs on the guitar. One of them Cherry even got up and sang along. It was truly delightful, and I fully intend to say things like “I went to school with his father,” and “I once had a private concert in his living room,” when Wim becomes famous. Holy cow, can that kid write a song.

It was such a short visit, partly because the drive that was supposed to take 6 hours took a little over 8. Blerg. But it was so pleasant just hanging out with Jack, who I’m hopeful will be playing lacrosse at W&L in another two years. I’d be happy to think of a young man like him being part of the next generation of Generals. And Cherry, who is funny and sardonic, just like me. And Wim, who is darling, and quirky, and soon to be the next huge singer-songwriter sensation (and he darn well better come through on those backstage passes he promised!) And Pete, who grew up good, and continues to be such pleasant and entertaining company.

And the winner of the W&L Hospitality Wars? ME. Me and mine. I feel so blessed to have such beautiful friendships that have spanned the decades with people who are so generous and gracious. I am definitely the winner in this scenario.

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Day Twenty: Happy Birthday, You Little Firecracker! (And you, too, America.)

04 Jul

What can I really say about today, except:

Amazing weather!

and…

Best. Backyard. Party. Ever.

Tina happens to share a birthday with America (or is that the other way around?) And what better reason to summon your best friends to your backyard with way too much food, and just enough alcohol? Celebrating freedom, and the birthday of a super cool person. Not that I should be surprised by this, but Tina & Joe’s friends are, well, in a word, AWESOME! Seriously. I was afraid that even though I felt certain that their friends would be great, that somehow I wouldn’t fit in, or I wouldn’t be comfortable. Well, that was a stupid thing to waste psychic energy on. I loved their friends, and I’m getting the feeling that maybe they loved me, too. It was such a fun party. The perfect kind of backyard relaxed. There were 16 kids between the ages of 7-14. They floated near us from time to time, but parents would answer questions or give reassurances, and then off they would go again. So the grown-ups (or perhaps I should just say, adults, as I’m not suggesting we were always behaving in a mature manner) had the chance to talk and tell stories and laugh our butts off. Harper Kate was the darling of the corn hole circuit, and Avery Cakes, with her brilliant hot tub-based rendition of Take Me Home, Country Roads, just blew everyone away. I cannot even begin to tell you how gratifying it felt to have these strangers, who felt like friends by the end of the night, tell me, “Your kids are awesome!” or “Your kids are so cool!” or maybe the best yet, “Great job with your kids.”

Anyway, I hope that Tina had a nice night, and it seemed while she was on the patio dance floor shaking it to the Indigo Girls, and pretending she was at the Buffalo Creek Music Festival while noodling to The Grateful Dead, that she did. I know I did. And I even got a piece of funfetti cake to boot! What a perfect weekend we have had in the company of friends. Grateful beyond measure…

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Day Nineteen: General Nostalgia

03 Jul

There is frequently a gap in my travelogue once we are in residence at Chez Tison. Is that because nothing noteworthy occurs, or there is nothing to report? Far from it! It is because we keep ourselves so busy, with activities, but also with the pure pleasure of just hanging out together. There is little I love more on a summer night than just hanging out around the fire pit (or sitting on a park bench!) conversing with these two. And since we stay up well past our old people bedtimes, acting like our college selves, I quite happily fall behind on documentation. But I also want to be sure to get everything down, because I don’t want to forget a moment of this. To that end, I will revert for today to a less narrative and more bullet point style list of our exploits in the fair town of Fairfield…

Breakfast: How do you know when your college friend still knows and loves you? When she buys you a box of Lucky Charms, and then forbids the 5 children in the house to touch it. Cannot even begin to fathom how many bowls (pounds?) of Lucky Charms I consumed in the Letitia Pate Evans Dining Hall from 1991-1995. But for the kids, Joe stepped up behind the griddle and cranked out batches of pancakes. Their kids eat reasonably portioned meals, mine fall on the things they like like hungry wolverines. But he managed to make enough to satisfy them all. Pro tip: when replacing the egg in pancake batter, sweet potato baby food makes an excellent binder, that turns out slightly sweet pancakes. And when you run out of sweet potato baby food, applesauce makes an reasonable substitute as well. The mango peach kind made for a slightly tropical and delicious pancake.

Outdoor Activity: A hike around Lake Mohegan. It was nice to head into the woods. Only time I felt vaguely bad about not having Remy with us because not only were dogs permitted, but there don’t seem to be any leash laws in Connecticut. He would have loved this place. It was a fairly easy (only a few uphills), not overly technical hike through the woods, along a stream. Nice to be outside breathing some fresh air and getting some exercise. (Relevant side note: Holy crap am I woefully out of shape. Ironic side note: I was wearing my Krispy Kreme t-shirt.)

Indoor Activity: A field trip to a little slice of heaven called Bass Pro Shops. I’ve been in a BPS before, but it was nothing like this one. They have really come a long way in terms of decoration and design over the years. It was AMAZING. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a chance to look around much because I got stuck at the indoor catch-and-release kiddie pool. Seriously. There was an indoor pool filled with an assortment of fish, and they were letting little kids fish for them on little rod and reels. There were a bunch of employees baiting hooks with worms, and while Beau and Harper, Sam and Trey, rapidly caught their fish and posed for their picture, Avery was having no luck at all. And it wasn’t because she was doing anything wrong at all, no, her form was perfect, and her patience was that of a saint. But the guy baiting her hook just wasn’t doing a good job of it, so these wily, been caught a million times before fish, were able to steal her worm without a single chance of her being able to set a hook. It was frustrating. At least to me. But she took it like a champ, just shrugging and saying, oh well, sometimes you don’t catch anything. Meanwhile I wanted to jump in the pool and catch one with my bare hands just to shove it on to her hook. This particular Bass Prop Shops, also happens to have the most insane underwater-themed bowling alley. We didn’t bowl, but we did partake of a late lunch at the attached restaurant. Which was surprisingly rather good – at least they didn’t mess up my bison burger, and they had delicious fries.

Dessert: How could it be a trip to Fairfield without a stop at Sunny Daes Ice Cream shop?

Backyard Fun: Joe dragged the small bouncy house out of the basement and the kids went crazy. Some were in and out of the hot tub. There was a corn hole smack down (See, Tony, you’re not the only one who falls to the champion.) A gorgeous afternoon – sunshine, decent temperature, a little overcast, but it kept it from being beastly hot.

Dinner: Taco Night!! Tina puts on a serious spread.

Dessert: S’mores over the fire pit. I became the beneficiary of the children who love to roast marshmallows, but were forbidden by their strict parents to eat too many of them. Can I roast another marshmallow and give it to you? Yes. Yes, you can.

Celebration: After forcing the children to bathe for the first time in days, it was time for the Tison Family Backyard Fireworks Display in Celebration of America and Tina’s Birthday. It started with running around with sparklers in the backyard, as the fireflies flashed. Then it was time for the main event. Joe had picked up an assortment of ground-based fireworks. He and Beau went halfway up the backyard to set up, and the girls set chairs up along the edge of the patio for a viewing station. They also worked hard earlier in the day to make scoresheets for everyone. The idea was that before every firework was lit, Beau would, with a pithy comment, announce the name of it. We, the viewing audience, would find the firework listed on our scoresheet, and mark a score from 1-10 for each individual firework. At the end, there was also a space for us to name our favorite firework shown. It was quite an extensive list. The full display had some really cool fireworks, some that looked exactly like the three before it, some that were surprisingly good, and only one that was a dud. Then the girls tallied the votes, taking longer to do this than the actual fireworks display, and reported back the rankings. The clear winners were Razzle Dazzle and Pyro Fire. Or rather, the clear winner was me. I mean, really. How lucky am I to have friends like this to spend the 4th of July weekend with?

Once the kids were finally shuffled off to bed, it was time for an annual tradition. A very exclusive W&L reunion at a very exclusive location. About 4 years ago I created a check-in location on Facebook called The Firepit at Chez Tison. (Tina suggested that we also need a check-in location for their new hot tub – I believe we’ve settled on The Hot Springs Spa at Chez Tison.) But anyway, sitting around the firepit, drinking, laughing, reminiscing, to me, it is one of the sweet spots of summer. And there are certain things that are quintessentially Washington & Lee University. If you went there, you know. One of those things is a perfectly mixed Beam & Coke. Sure, other people drink them, but they are, or at least used to be in the early 90s, the signature cocktail of W&L. As I had my first sip of the cocktail Joe had mixed me in a Class of 1995 20th Reunion Tervis mug, I thought to myself, this tastes like nostalgia. Taking a look at the Trident on the mug, I said, “That’s it. Henceforth, this simple cocktail (a perfect proportion of Jim Beam & Coca-Cola with a wedge of lime) shall be known as a General Nostalgia.” It’s going to be a thing. Just you wait.

A few hours later, the readily available wood was burned, a few General Nostalgias down the hatch, and laughter all the way around, it was into the wee early morning hours and time to retire. But not before wishing Tina a hearty Happy Birthday, and determining that, indeed, what every PTA needs is a dad who looks like Rob Lowe…

 

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Day Eighteen: Departure/Arrival

02 Jul

I said I would have enough time in the morning, and I did. That waking at 6:15am thing helped immensely on that front. But I continued my parking process, began putting things in the car slowly, doing final cleaning tasks around the cottage, etc. I was originally shooting for a 10:00am departure. But I got a little distracted, and I decided that I deserved to sit down and have a decent breakfast while enjoying the insanely beautiful view from our table. So, the southbound leg of CMRT Summer 2016: K9 Edition rolled out of the driveway of our KPT cottage at 10:45am. But first, lemme take a selfie! I made the kids endure a final photo shoot in front of the cottage, including one of the group selfies that I am typically so terrible at. However, this one was an epic success, as included in the photo is myself, the faces of all three kids, the cottage, the minivan, and my gifted poodle making an epic photobomb. Perfection. Makes for a very happy Crazy Momma.

Odometer reading 70,248, and that poignant, new Peter Pan/Neverland song “Lost Boy” playing on the radio, we headed out of town, making a final pass through Dock Square. I was trying very hard to just soak it in without letting it turn into melancholy. I’m not sure I was entirely successful, but every time my thoughts turned to how sad I will be if this turns out to be the last summer of the cottage on Turbat’s Creek, or the last summer we vacation in Kennebunkport, I was mostly successful in remembering how lucky we are to have had this magical place be a part of our lives for so long. To have so many wonderful memories, to have made new friends, to have a place to return to, perhaps one day with my children’s children. (Aww, damn it, starting to tear up again. Sigh.) Anyway, it felt emotional to leave, it always does, but this time it felt somewhat different. There was the typical melancholia with an extra layer. But also, there was a sense that maybe it’s okay, that maybe, sometimes a blank slate is exactly what you need. And so, if the house sells and is no longer an option, I’ll have to look into other options. If the kids decide that what they really want to do next summer, and all the summers after, is go to sleep-away camp, then that will become our new tradition. I’m not finished with Kennebunkport, and KPT isn’t finished with me, but I respect the way things ebb and flow, and especially now, in the Summer of Serendipity, I am going to try my best to roll with whatever comes my way, seeing change not as a tragedy, but an opportunity.

We breezed out of the state, making our final crossing of the Piscataqua River bridge into New Hampshire. Holy heck is this the first time I was ever glad that I was leaving Maine and not heading into it. The traffic bound for the state of Maine was incredibly dense. There were varying levels of stop-and-go traffic for tens of miles. The stretch of I-95 through the entire state of New Hampshire (which, full disclosure, is only about 14 miles) was stop-and-go. And then as we exited onto 495, the traffic was still exceedingly heavy for at least several miles. Insanity. Judging by the traffic I’m guessing the population of Maine will be doubling this weekend. And I felt sorry for all those people with the Massachusetts and New York plates, thinking they were just going to take a quick jaunt up to Maine on a Saturday morning. But hey, at least they had a final destination of Maine to look forward to.

We made a few quick pit stops – to pick up fast food lunch, one at a rest area to clean up some dog vomit (I think it may have been the anxiety of watching me slowly pack up and pack the car this morning that did in his tender constitution) only to discover that the human potties at this rest area were closed and people were queueing up for portalets (NOPE!). So, that necessitated a stop at the next exit for a legit human potty stop. And then we reached our first destination in Westport, CT – Remy’s dog hotel. So, here’s the deal, I am eternally grateful for the hospitality of my friends. And never has it been more apparent than this summer, as I am rolling up and down the coast with my 55b dog in tow, that, as Beau so succinctly put it in New York City, I do “have the nicest friends.” But for this next stop, even though my gracious friend said to bring on the kids AND the dog, I felt like I needed a break. I needed to relax without worrying about the dog’s feet as we came in and out of the backyard. I needed to not worry about the way he slobs his water all over a 10ft radius of his water bowl, and I needed to be able to come and go from the house without having to worry about where he could stay and whether or not I needed to crate him when we left. So, I found a kennel in the area strikingly similar to the one we use at home. Indoor/outdoor runs, lots of extra playtimes, engaged techs, seemed like the real deal, and I’m sure that we will all have a happier, more relaxed weekend for taking the responsibility of the dog off the table.

As I checked him in to Townhouse for Dogs & Cats, I felt very good about my choice. First, I had to fill out two forms, fairly comprehensive in nature, and they seemed pleasant and briskly efficient at the front desk, and the tech that took Remy back was very loving and engaged with him. Even asking him to sit before giving him a treat. I arranged the extra playtimes, the exit bath, and all the details. Then, right before I left, the girl at the front desk told me that I should feel free to call and check up on him whenever I liked. Say what?? Call? And check up on him? At the kennel? Wow. I mean, I love my dog, I truly do. And Remy is an exceptional dog. But, call and check up on him? He’s a dog. I’m boarding him for the weekend. I’m pretty sure if there is something you need me to know, that you will call me.

Dog secured for the weekend it was long overdue time for us to make our stop at CMRT annual fan favorite: Chez Tison! Seriously, this is one of the stops that, not only has been an annual stop for CMRT, but has become as much of a destination as Maine. Last year when CMRT was on hiatus, my children readily accepted that we would not be traveling to Maine, but wanted to know why that meant we wouldn’t be taking a trip to Chez Tison. And what makes this particular enclave of Fairfield, Connecticut, so appealing? The people, of course. Okay, so their home truly is lovely, and the third floor bonus room is unlike anything my children are used to, plus they have a wonderful backyard with cool things to play with, but it’s the hospitality of two of the most generous people I know that keeps us coming back. I have known Tina and Joe since I was 17 years old. (They were already 18, but let’s not quibble about the fact that I’m younger than both of them!) They are both funny and wonderfully  fun to be around, with the added bonus that I went to college with both of them. The fact that they eventually got married to one another, despite never dating, or really being particularly good friends in college, is such perfection I can’t even describe it. Tina is such a detail-oriented hostess, that there is nothing left unattended to. When we rolled up and spilled out into their home, Tina is welcoming us in, the kids were off and playing in the backyard with their two kids, meanwhile Joe presents me with a Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen (delicious!) while the pork butt he’s been smoking for 8 hours already smells like a slice of heaven. Suddenly, the perfect summer day is unfolding before us.

I’m not going to drill down the details here. That’s not what I do in regards to our visits at Chez Tison. Here we are too busy living life to properly document it. Especially since the kids take up a large portion of time and focus, so when the five total (11, 10, 10, 8, 7) are finally asleep, we like to spend our time, late into the night, reminiscing, philosophizing, and solving the world’s problems. You know, discussing the mundane and inane, side by side with the important stuff. But suffice it to say, the following words/phrases would have been used if I had taken the time to properly document our evening:

How many kids can fit on one hammock?

I like pork butts and I cannot lie. Especially smothered in Fat Henry Tison’s Sauce.

Hot tub, possibly a time machine. Or at the very least a rocket ship.

Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Joey. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you know this.

Summer Shandy

 

On a side note: Who did I get a message from today as we began our southbound swing? Fellow W&L ’95 classmate, Pete Tapley. Another of the gracious hosts who has played innkeeper to Crazy Momma & the Willim 3, he simply asked, “Do we get to see you?” As if it’s a privilege, or anything at all to get excited about. I phoned him to say that our original intention was to drive through Virginia on Tuesday, as part of our mega long haul driving day enroute from Fairfield, CT, to a hotel room in Weldon, NC. To say I wasn’t super excited about that day anyway, would be an understatement, but this is the Summer of Serendipity, isn’t it? And if Pete was (1) serious about wanting us to visit, and (2) available on such short notice for a drop-by overnight including 3 kids and a dog on Tuesday night, then by all means, I embrace the serendipitous change itinerary, and am very much looking forward to seeing the Tapleys again soon! So, that’s it, the #W&Lhospitalitywars are on…

FYI, as we were pulling onto the Tison’s street, what song should begin playing on the radio but “Lost Boy.” It was uncanny. The soundtrack to our departure 246 miles earlier, was also the soundtrack to our arrival. It seems like full circle. An ending and a beginning all at once.

 

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Day Seventeen: It’s History

01 Jul

I tried to stay zen upon waking this morning. This, our last full day in Maine on CMRT 2016: K9 Edition. And potentially our last full day ever in this house we have grown to love on Turbat’s Creek. Remember how I told you it was on the market (for a very reasonable price, those of you interested in real estate investment with a mind to allow responsible single moms with great kids and a hypo-allergenic dog to rent it during the summer!) Well, yesterday the real estate agent came to show it to a couple who were in town and very interested. I was a good girl. I told the owner that of course I didn’t mind if the real estate agent came by, and I even cleaned/tidied up so that it would show to max advantage given the fact that it was an active rental to a vacationing family. And I stayed on the beach while the showing was happening. Well, for the most part. When Beau checked to see if they were still here (yep, cars in the drive), he noticed that the front door had been left wide open. Since it was me, and not the real estate agent, that was going to have to spend the night in the house with whatever mosquitos and other biting insects she let in, I stepped inside and called out a friendly hello. When she poked her head down the stairs I very politely told her that I was just grabbing some snacks, and shutting the door on my way out!! But I never did see the couple, so I don’t know if they looked like people who would rent to me or not.

Anyway, here it was, the final full day. And I was trying desperately not to think about it. To not ponder at all. And I was mostly successful. That has been one of the brilliant aspects of the extended two week stay. Feeling less rushed and less “we have to do this now it’s our only chance!” Which has made for a more pleasant experience overall, and made me more appreciative, less melancholically nostalgic. Which used to happen to me while the vacation was still happening! So, this morning the girls and I decided to head into town to a museum that we’ve passed almost every day of every year we’ve been coming here and never bothered to enter. White Columns, aka The Nott House, aka the First Families Museum, is a lovely 1853 Victorian Era Greek Revival mansion run by the Kennebunkport Historical Society. It stayed in the same family for over 130 years, and was a family member’s home until the 1980s, therefore many of the furnishings and decorations are original to the house and family. The rest has been filled in with donations to the historical society that are appropriate to the era. They even have vintage era clothing hanging in the closets! (And, yes, this house had closets! Which is shocking for that time period. And we discovered the fascinating reason why on our tour.) Admission to the house with a 30+ min tour was $10 for me, and kids under the age of 12 are free. The tour was excellent, and done by an intern from Kennebunk High School. He was very knowledgeable, and entertained all questions, including those posed by my curious girls (like, did any of the family children slide down the banister? He wasn’t sure, but he did know that one of the original glass sidelights by the front door was broken by a slingshot wielded by the first child to live there.) Anyway, the home is in excellent condition considering its age, even the original, hand-painted wallpaper is intact in most rooms! In one of the rooms of the home (I believe the original kitchen) is the First Families Museum. It is a room full of objects dedicated to the Bush Family, most specifically, to George H.W. Bush, who, with his wife, Barbara, spends the majority of their time at their Kennebunkport, Maine, home, Walker’s Point, land that has been in their family for generations. It was a neat little exhibit of Bush and Kennebunkport memorabilia. The best part to me being the displays of old family photographs. But they were also running a video biography on a tv in the corner, and I happened to catch the last little bit. Regardless of your political leanings, it was an interesting history of a family that has played a huge role in American politics, and a nice little exhibit in support of one of Kennebunkport’s most famous resident families.

After the house tour/museum, during which the girls were excellently well-behaved and engaged, we wandered into town for the last little bit of souvenir shopping. We hit a few stores, bought a Christmas ornament, and then interest petered out rather quickly. Because of the amount of food we still had at home, I was not going to buy lunch in town, so we headed back to the cottage for a late lunch.

And the afternoon was reserved for beach time with the Nelson girls. Mandy brought her girls down to Turbat’s Creek one more time, and we were joined by her friend, Monica, and Monica’s toddler granddaughter, named Vaughan (after the island.) It was a pleasant afternoon spent chatting, and watching naked beach baby Vaughan being cute as all get out. After an exploratory walk to Vaughan’s Island, and playing some card games on the rocks, Harper and the Nelson girls went out into the water one last time, with Harper even being brave enough to dunk her thin-blooded Florida head under the icy water. Then it was time to round everyone up, say our goodbyes to the Nelsons, and rinse off the beach gear one last time. What a pleasant ending note to what has been a glorious vacation.

Then the laundry and packing frenzy began in earnest, because I had done exactly zip to get ready to leave! Unfortunately, my allergies have started acting up something fierce in the past few days and I had to take something to stop the incessant sneezing. Benadryl was effective on that front, but the drowsiness was something that I just didn’t have time to succumb to. Soldiering on, I got as far as I could, leaving a fairly large chunk of work to do tomorrow morning. Oh well, it will get done. It just will. And since I haven’t slept past 6:45am on any morning but one this whole 2.5 weeks, I’m guessing I’ll have plenty of time…

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Day Sixteen: Against the Tide

30 Jun

The one thing I promised my boy about this trip is that we, he & I, would take to the kayaks and paddle to Cape Porpoise Harbor. It’s not too terribly far away from our enclave on Turbat’s Creek, but it added another level of difficulty to the single parent vacation. Because, while I am more than happy (and often very happy!) to leave the kiddos home alone while I have some “me time” – for example, filling the car up with gas, or buying ice cream sandwiches at Hannafords, leaving the girls alone while I was out on a kayak, pushed my personal boundaries of responsible parenting. If I’m just up the road and something occurs, I could get to them fast, I could contact other people to help, etc, etc. But if I’m out in a kayak, even though there is cell coverage throughout the course, I’m stuck. I could not get to them fast, I would be out of the loop. Not to mention the fact I would be out there with their brother, so even if I could paddle home just as fast as I could drive home from the grocery store, I couldn’t just abandon their brother out in a kayak. Anyway, it just didn’t feel right to me. Enter stage left: my lovely, generous friend, Mandy. Earlier in the week, we looked at tide charts and determined that if she picked the girls up after teaching her yoga class on Thursday morning, Beau and I could possibly make our journey in the morning. Tide wasn’t going to be low until 2:00pm, and Mandy could get them just after 11:00am. It was going to be tight, but should be doable.

So, Beau and I started to prepare, had the kayaks toted down to the creek, life jackets on (and fastened!), and we went to set off. Only to realize that these extreme tides we have been having this year, well, they are not just extremes in the highs and lows, but at least in the case of the lows, they are running faster. We pushed out into the rapidly diminishing creek and set off for the cut between Turbat’s and Cape Porpoise, only to discover that a full 3 hours before true low tide, the canal was already impassable. Exposed rocks blocking the path, and kayaks bottoming out. (Cue defeated Pac-Man sound bite here.) So we were flat out thwarted. Extremely disappointed, we paddled back to our beach, pulled the kayaks out of the water, and caught up with Mandy. Being the extremely generous friend that she is, she says with a shrug, I’m still taking the girls home to play with my kids for a few hours, and you’ll just do it later this afternoon when the tide is high. I wanted to cry. This kayak adventure was the one thing I definitively promised to make happen, and I could not have even dreamed of trying without Mandy’s help. So Beau and I carried the kayaks back up to the house, bummed around for a little bit, eating lunch, etc. A few hours later, Mandy returned with the girls, and her girls, and her sister-in-law and her girls, and one boy who happened to be a friend of her younger daughter. Three adults, eight kids (11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 8, 7, 1), and one dog. Time for the beach!

This afternoon proved again exactly how magical Turbat’s Creek really is. When we staked our place on the small beach with chairs and bags and coolers, the kids immediately set off for Vaughan’s Island, with the adults trailing close behind. They explored the tidal pools, and waded out into the icy Atlantic. Just being kids, while the dog scampered about, and Mandy & I talked. (Her sister-in-law was also quite lovely, but having a 1 year old in tow, especially one who was doing the car nap thing when they arrived, she was off being a hands-on mother for the first little bit, while Mandy & I were free to let our entire posse roam.) As the tide started coming back in, we headed back to the beach, and the food. (I would especially like the thank Mandy for introducing me to frozen Hershey’s kisses.) We sat and talked, occasionally throwing the ball for Remy, while the kids stayed in the water. Even my crazy Florida kids dunked their heads! Beau walked through chest deep water back over to Vaughan’s through the rising tide, and then had to swim back. It was lovely and relaxed. I enjoyed the company of other women, and the kids certainly enjoyed the company of other kids.Then it was time to pack up. Mandy graciously took my girls home with her, and Beau and I took another (high tide) run at Cape Porposise.

Once again we toted the kayaks down to the creek. They are sit inside ocean kayaks, and are very stable, but they are not light. Carrying them is not my favorite thing to do. But we got them down there for the second time today, and were happy to push out into the creek to set off. The weather could not have been more glorious. Shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt under our life jackets, pleasantly comfortable even with exertion. With little wind and no other boat traffic, we made the fairly quick, and exceedingly beautiful paddle over to the Cape Porpoise Harbor. It was fun to paddle among the anchored lobster boats. And have some fun with selfies (I’m really bad at it – I can never get the thing I want in the background.) We paddled up to the working docks, beached the kayaks on the shoreline, and walked over to the monuments to gaze at Goat Island Lighthouse, not so far in the distance (but farther than we wanted to, or had energy to, paddle out). Then it was back to the kayaks for the return trip home. Unfortunately for us, the wind had kicked up, and through the tide was almost slack, it was a battle to get back across the harbor to our cut through. But we made it, and certainly I am not the worse for wear for having a bit of a much-needed workout. The whole adventure makes me wish I had access and opportunity to kayak more often. There really is something delightfully primal about experiencing nature at water level.

After using our spaghetti arms to carry the kayaks back up to the house one more time, it was time for quick showers and change, to head over to the Nelson’s house. I got a little sidetracked taking care of our gear, and then melting into a lovely hot shower, but we eventually got our act together and joined the party. And a party it was, indeed. First of all, Mandy and Dan are some of the coolest people I know. Completely wacky and funny, and just all around fun. As you might expect, they foster this silliness and unabashed enjoyment of life in their children. To that end, as they are in the process of rebuilding their barn which was gutted in a fire last Fall, they have built a dance platform, complete with light-switch operated disco ball and strobe lights. Being voice artists, they also have a good sound system, complete with microphones. So, the girls had put together their ultimate dance party playlist. Mandy & I managed to avoid the fray for a little bit, enjoying a cocktail and some grown-up conversation – as if you could actually refer to us as grown-ups, or our conversation as mature! (I sure am craving a doughnut right about now!) But we made our way out to the barn, and I’m pretty sure today is the most exercise I’ve gotten in months – first the kayak trip, and then all the dancing? Good times! But after awhile the music was too loud (god, I’m old), and the strobe light was kind of messing with my head, so I gave the kids a 20 min warning, and we extricated ourselves once again. Beau spent most of the evening hanging outside with Dan, and their neighbor, Tim. And it was nice for him to have some “guy time”. Plus, Tim gave Beau a really cool dragon model, which was awesome and extremely generous of him.

I do love to see my kids so happy. And it made me feel good when Mandy, who had spent some time with the girls outside of my presence, told me, “You have really happy kids.” Because as much as I want people to notice their nice manners, noticing the image they project from their souls is even nicer.

Soon enough it was time to head back to the house and crash. Can’t believe tomorrow is our last full day in Maine. I can’t even think about it.

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Day Fifteen: The First Rule of Book Club Is…

29 Jun

So, last week we visited the Book Burrow, and I bought the latest Elizabeth Strout book, The Burgess Boys. At the time the owner told me they were having a book discussion next Wednesday, and I, cavalierly promised to attend. As I was buying the book. Before I had actually read it. When I was still in the process of reading a different book. And I have definitely not been doing the kind of reading on this trip that I usually do. Partly it’s because I’m alone with the kids, but a larger contributing factor is the amount of time I am spending throwing the tennis ball for the dog. Usually, when the kids are playing happily in the water, or on the rocks, I am merely parked in my chair reading. I brought several books to read so I would be prepared. But I am spending what seems like an inordinate amount of time exercising the dog. Yet one more reason why he’s going to hate me when we leave, because that’s not how it’s going to go down in our normal lives. Especially since we don’t have this level of doggie nirvana right outside our door. But I digress. The point is that Wednesday had rolled around, the book discussion was set to begin at 9:30am, and I had not yet finished the book! It was early in the morning, just the boy & I awake, and he asked me if I was planning to go to the discussion. I was hedging, saying I wanted to, but I didn’t feel right since I hadn’t finished the book yet. He asked how close I was to the end, and I showed him where my bookmark was, pretty much right in the middle of the book. He looked at me, paused for a beat, and said, “Mom, it’s not even 7am, you could finish that if you wanted to.” I looked at him, realized that he was totally giving me permission to park myself on the couch, and just read for the next two hours. So I did. With only a few minor interruptions, I was basically undisturbed for the next 2 hours. And guess what? I finished the book. At 9:14am. Now I had to go! So I asked the kids if they minded, and they, readers all, said I should definitely go. I raced up the stairs, changed out of my pajamas, and got to the Book Burrow only 2 minutes past the 9:30am start time. And I am so very glad I am the type of person who tries to keep every promise I make, because I was one of only 4 people there, including the owner and the guest moderator. Which actually made for a very nice discussion. The irony? I was the only participant other than the moderator who had finished the book! But it was a pleasant time spent with 3 nice ladies, all of us with divergent backgrounds and life experiences, discussing the book, and as it dovetailed, life. I was so pleased to have participated. And even more pleased that my children encouraged me to do so.

As I was driving home I called the kids and told them to start making sandwiches because the torrential overnight rains had stopped, and we were going to have a picnic on Vaughan’s Island. I knew by the charts that the tide should be almost out, so we could easily get across, and have some time to spend over there. Beau commented that it was really foggy, and he couldn’t even see Vaughan’s Island from the house. But I told him that just made it more fun. So as soon as I got home we finished putting together sandwiches, chips, fruit, and drinks, and grabbed a few beach blankets, before making the trek across the mud to the Island. I don’t remember us ever doing that. Picnicking on Vaughan’s. I laid out the blankets on the smoothest spot above the high tide line, and the kids grabbed their food and clambered up onto the climbing rocks. After eating we just kind of hung out. Beau & Avery playing on the rocks, and Harper reading her book (natch). I even laid down and dozed off for a short catnap in the sun. But then the sky began to get more and more overcast, the fog settling more heavily around us once again, and one by one the kids peeled off to head back up to the house. I stayed down a little longer, throwing the ball into the icy Atlantic for my crazy dog. But by the time we got back up to the house there was thunder rolling in the distance, and it was clear that more rain was on its way.

So, we spent the afternoon inside, as the rain poured down on the house. It was relaxing. We worked on our puzzle, read, watched some videos. Everyone sort of drifting off to their own corners to relax as we were stuck inside on a rainy summer day. But after a few hours the rain stopped, and in the late afternoon it was nothing but high tide and clear, sunny skies. And though we still have a few days left, I am starting to feel the pull of the end. That our vacation is winding down, and opportunities are becoming limited. So I suggested, despite it being after 4pm, that maybe the kids would like to take the kayaks down to the beach. The joyous response was unanimous! They were changed lickety-split, lifejackets were on, and everyone helped to get the kayaks and paddles down to the water. At first there was a bit of drama –> 3 kids / 2 kayaks. But we got it figured out, and within hardly any time at all, they had found a way to all play together, with the odd man out actually sitting on the back of the larger kayak. Time drifted by, and suddenly we had been down at the creek for two hours.  What a glorious chunk of time. And I was loathe to call the kids in, but it was getting late, and we still needed showers before heading into town for a promised dinner jaunt.

On a side note, I discovered via a local that the house we rent is currently for sale. I am crushed. This could be the final year for us. Because it is quite possible that whoever buys the house will keep it as a summer residence, or even a permanent residence, and it might no longer be available for rental. So, if any of you dear readers would like to invest in some rental property in Maine, I can vouch for how awesome this house is, and I know for a fact that it is reliably rented out for the entirety of every summer. Or, if you just want to buy it and let me come visit for a few weeks, that would be cool, too! As soon as I finish typing this I’m going to check my lottery tickets. It’s actually listed for quite a reasonable price considering the property. The house would need some work if you were trying to turn it into a full-time residence, but it is perfect as a rental. Perfect. I am bereft, and trying very hard not to think about the fact that when we drive away from this house on Saturday morning, it may be for the last time. Arrrrgghhhh! Can’t. Think. About. It.

Anyway…. Once we got all the gear back up to the house, the kids went inside to shower and change, while I rinsed the kayaks, and washed the dog. Then it was time to head into town for the last of the promised Ben & Jerry’s stops. And yes, I remembered to pack the kids’ shovel spoons!! But first it was time to try out the new Italian place that has opened since our last trip to Kennebunkport two years ago. It’s called Roma Pizza and Pasta, and it is conveniently located in the same building as the B&J’s! They advertise pizza by the slice, but as the kids were describing how hungry they were, I decided the best course of action was a whole pizza. One for them, one for me, guaranteed leftovers! So we went with a small cheese for them, and a Rustica for me (artichoke hearts, sausage, garlic). Yummy!! It came out quickly, and it was super delicious pizza. It’s different than Atlantic Pizza, and I wouldn’t forsake either one. But it’s nice to have options, and both of them are excellent. The kids put a hurting’ on their pizza, with each kid having two slices or more, so we ended up with only a single cheese slice as leftovers, but I have several pieces that I can’t wait to eat for lunch tomorrow! Then, after stuffing ourselves with pizza, we walked out one door, and into the next to get ice cream. The kids, who had been spoiled by Amy the first day, looked askance at me when I said only one scoop, but they know one is better than none, so wisely thanked me & scampered off to tuck into their treat.

By the time we got home, it was approaching 9:00pm, so I told the kids that it was time to get ready for bed. That our late nights were starting to catch up with all of us, and they must have been tuckered out, because I heard no complaints. Everyone going compliantly to their beds to read. And when I went upstairs just a little bit later to turn off lights, all were down for the count. Bringing to a close another amazing day…

 

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim