There’s some debate about when Camp Gramp really started. Was it the first time my parents took their first-born grandchild? Did it require all four of the current Camp Gramp generation? Was it simply the first portrait on the wall in my ancestral home, right below the senior portraits of myself and my siblings? Regardless of your opinion of the previous, this year was at very least the 11th Camp Gramp. The babies (quite literally) in that first portrait are now majority-pubescent and taller than me. They know more about my wifi than I do, and speak in a language that is half-meme, half whatever replaces Vines.
But still we have Camp Gramp.
The lobbying was hard and heavy this year for another “RV” Camp Gramp. The cynical parental view is that this particular Camp Gramp methodology doesn’t interfere with the video gaming that is the shared Linga Franca amongst the campers. But the grandparents are loving, and obtained at great cost and with significant trepidation a behemoth to shuttle the campers across a modest half of Canada. Adam and I warned them about the Bay of Fundy (regardless of when you’re there, the tide will be wrong for whatever you’re trying to do. Also, it will be raining.) But we waved a cheery farewell as they trekked North. I was personally anticipating a few coveted days in the house ALL BY MYSELF as my children trekked through Quebec and my husband role-played in Indianapolis.
It wasn’t long though before things started going awry. The stress of driving the behemoth made my mother question the probity of her heart (nine hours in the ER in Augusta Maine is just as much fun as it sounds) and the night that was intended for Acadia was instead spent in a Walmart parking lot. The ‘fridge on the RV went. The wipers failed to turn on during an epic rainstorm. The systems seemed to take turns failing. My indomitable parents, who spent four years in the heart of Africa (including while pregnant with me) were finally bested by the drumbeat of mechanical failures and returned to the safety of my home and high throughput of my wifi.
It was really lovely to get to spend time with my mother and father, niece and nephew. These are people I see far too little of. I was glad to spend a few extra days with them, and sad to see them leave this morning. We are a few years into the “I wonder if this is the last one” stage. This one was extra, uh, character building. But watching those kids together, I’m so grateful that they know each other as the family they are!
It’s cool this morning in Ashland – 70 dry degrees under the shade of the old ponderosa pines whose roots reach deep into the cheerfully burbling Lithia Creek. I’ve loved Lithia Park, and it’s eponymous creek, since I was a girl in the first flush of my coming of age (perhaps 15?), and thought the college boys here were very grown indeed. I fell head over heels in love in 1992 with the romantic lead of “As You Like It” (the ever dreamy Ted Deasy), and have returned often enough to watch him begin taking the elder’s parts, as I have begun paying for my own tickets. (It’s a sorrow to me that he is not here this season!)
Ashland has lived up to it’s name in this week, with the sun blood red at noon with the smoke from a hundred encircling fires. As the air thickens, the theater goers are shifted from the grand outdoor Elizabethan theater to the surprisingly nice for a high school Ashland high school theater. But you cannot watch the stars rise above the flags for comedy, tragedy and history from the high school. Walking down uncommonly empty streets, faces are obscured by masks. It’s been nearly a month of unhealthy air here, and the stitch-ladies have begun turning their handicraft to N95 masks. I see more and more of them that appear attractive, artistic… permanent. Even the bright waters of Lithia seems murky with ash and fire-trace.
But while the very air we breathe may be turning against us, the actual art of Ashland is as superb as I have ever seen. I’m extraordinarily fortunate in finding a mate who likes theater as much as I do (I swear I don’t drag him – I proposed we go backpacking). So in the four days we are here, we will be seeing seven plays. We’re through five of them on this cool Friday morning, and my belief in the importance of art to show what it is you would rather not see has been swollen, like my heart.
Sense & Sensibility
I’ve never been a great lover of the Austin era romances. I’ve read a few of them, and enjoyed them, but never with the passionate ferver others express. My favorite version of Sense and Sensibility was actually a sci-fi sendup when the unsuitability of the young ladies had to do with their telekenetic and other powers. But this play was masterfully frenetic. It was almost tiring to watch the energy and enthusiasms of the young ladies and young men and gossips – the still patience of that eldest Miss Dashwood stood in most abrupt counterpoint to the chaos around her. It was a costume drama and a continual joy to the eyes. And at the end, when all the wheel of fortune ends it’s turning for the afternoon, there were tears standing in our eyes.
Book of Will
This was our first shift from the grand Elizabethan theater to the tiled halls of Ashland High, but as soon as the actor took the long trumpet in hand to herald the coming play, I was drawn completely in. This may be one of the most loving plays I have ever seen – showing long and happy marriages. It was a story of how it came to be that we still have the words of the Bard, against all odds and habit of the era. It was a good reminder of how much we owe to our forebears for their preservation of what is good and lovely. It was also very much a story of loss, and of the meaning of life. Will himself was years dead at the time of the telling, and the King’s Men (who knew his words) were also dying. The characters wrestled with questions of living now versus creating legacy, of what is owed to the honored dead, and of how to claim the very value of our days, especially when those days grow scarcer. It’s hard to say, but this might be my favorite of the plays.
Snow in Midsummer
There’s nothing quite like a good ghost story, and this one was very fine. It was a very modern retelling of an ancient Chinese story. What would happen if the honorable dead had the ability to demand justice from those who have killed them, and those who benefited from that killing? It was a very keen play, cutting to the heart of expectations, first impressions, and questions of justice versus love. It also spoke to the great modern themes of the changing climate of the world, the inequality of resources and justice, and the Chinese practice of harvesting organs from executed criminals. This is the sort of story that stays with you, and haunts your quiet thoughts.
Love’s Labors Lost
After dining with a long-lost college friend, we once again negotiated the process of getting and claiming our tickets for the Elizabethan in the high school instead. It was easier once we remembered we had a car. I’m very fond of Shakespeare’s comedies. Love’s Labors Lost seemed to echo the last two plays, with it’s sudden turn towards sorrow which questions the meaning and worth of all the drollery that makes the early acts such a frolic. In this one, I particularly noticed the costumes, going from white innocent frills throught the red of charming, lustful deceipts to the black of full mourning. The play is both a laugh at and a lamentation for youth. How very very young and innocent those kings and princesses are in the beginning. How sorrowful it is to see such folly vanish as it’s brought of age – and yet how hopeful at the same time.
Thursday was our light day, with only one play (and that one only 90 minutes long!). But it was a remarkable 90 minutes. Our culture is full of the trope of cowboys and indians, the winning of the west, the conquering of savagery by civilization. But from the eyes of the conquered, killed and often-displaced the story looks very different. This play was a heart-piercing dual story of the theft of the homes and lives of the Lenape people to claim the island of Manahatta for the Dutch. The wall for which Wall Street was named was built to keep them from their own homes. The second layer of the story, seamlessly interwoven, tells the tale of a Lenape woman with the highest credentials returning to Wall Street as part of the derivatives group in Lehman brothers. We watch again, in eerie echoes, as home foreclosures chase out native folks from their homes as inexorably as did colonists a few centuries before. It was devastating. It is also strange to see presented as historic remembrance things that I easily remember as they were happening. I was no child in 2008, and I remember how it felt to wonder just how far the normal order of the world would slip (as I do now).
Before each performance, for the first time ever, the company has remembered that these theaters sit on grounds once belonging to the Shasta and Takelma people. I understood better why a company that has memorized the lines from this remarkable production would be conscience-bound to confess this.
The Way the Mountains Moved
Not every play can be the best you’ve ever seen, although the OSF sure tries. This one was well acted and well executed but perhaps overly ambitious. In telling too many stories, it failed to tell any enough. It threw together the wild mix of manifest destiny Utah with Mormons, escaped slaves, 19th century naturalists, Mexican war veterans, Native Americans and pioneers. I had high hopes, but this one was not my favorite.
This is my favorite Shakespeare play, and this was a masterful performance. I’ve never seen a Henry so vulnerable and human. His night-before fire visits, when he talks about how the King is also just a man, really resonated with the sound of truth. It made his Crispin Crispian speech all the better, when you know that he’s fighting his own feelings, doubts and fears in order to make such a bold stand. I wish I’d gotten to see the full cycle of Hal plays with this lead actor – he was superb!
Taken all together, my heart, mind & conscience have been moved by my time here. We’ve been debating the role of art for a few hundred years now (if not longer). I find as most precious this kind of art – that makes me see things I cannot myself see from where I stand. It teaches me something of what I do not know. I have never found another place that does such art as well (or even nearly as well) as Ashland does it. I wish you could all be here, and watch these plays with me, and be moved.
Did you miss us Tuesday? It was a day of loafing, sloth, indolence. Movies of Heidi when she was a baby. Two crossword puzzles in less than 30 minutes. A 4 player video game. One of the Harry Potter movies. A day to sleep in and relax. Batteries recharged!
So, nothing interesting to report. Just kids enjoying one another!
Wednesday – OMSI! Then Voodoo donuts and IKEA for dinner. Do you like our shirts. Camper designed. This is short because my computer blew up. I hope to get it back soon.
Thursday! The morning was spent with the children playing a 4 player game. It was wonderful to hear them enjoying themselves together. Just what we want from Camp Gramp. In the afternoon we went to the https://www.museumofglass.org/. It is fascinating to watch the people working in the Hot Shop. What skill. It is certainly hot work, but that was OK. The temperature is about perfect, and the smoke is beginning to move out. Tonight we could see the moon.
Then we went briefly to the TAM – Tacoma Art Museum. Our crowd was less fascinated — hungry, I think. To remedy that, we went to Red Robin. Right now, instead of going to bed, three of the crew is in the back room watching Harry Potter.
We have decided to have a close to home day tomorrow. We were going to go to the ocean, but we all have been enjoying just hanging around the house. We will probably to to Frey Farm to visit our friends the llamas. Other than that, it is at home!
I didn’t do a great job at the picture taking today. It was a day to enjoy the sound of companionship!
As is traditional during Camp Gramp, I repurpose my mother’s updates on how the four cousins are doing as content while I vacation. I used to actually write often enough that this saved me some writing. But now I know there are ardent Camp Gramp fans out there who I swear just read my blog to get the goods from my mom!
Camp Gramp has officially started. It had an unusual start. People have been here for 4 days, but Brenda and Adam left for Ashland today, so it is just the two generations. We decided to go to the Morton Loggers’ Jubilee. We saw the toppers climb 80 ft in the air with the axe hanging from their belt. Then they topped the log. We saw the Hot shot chain saws, and hopefully prevented hearing damage. The two person buck saws were fast and we watched people use their axes standing on a buckboard. Parents, you will be pleased to know that each family now has a souvenir. (Editor’s Note: I’m hoping to get Adam to turn our souvenir into a table.) Let me know how you want me to ship it to you! There was a competitor from Golden Valley, MN, and one from Australia!
This evening we hope to watch “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and do the crossword puzzle. We are enjoying the new projector and the screen which is larger than it ought to be!
Thanks to the kids for joining us. It is great fun!
Today was the tour of the Boeing plant in Everett, Pike Place Market, and the play area at the Center, plus a short visit to Del. The kids were GREAT! Cooperative and enjoyable.
Clearly, I am failing in my picture taking. For the Boeing plant, I have an excuse. The allow no phones, even turned off and in your pocket, on the tour. That place is amazing. Largest building in the world, by volume. We were in the tunnels running the width of the building (1/3 mile wide), and on the 4th floor looking down at everything. We didn’t see many workers, but our tour guide assured us that they were there.
The rest, I was too busy enjoying to take pictures. Kay bought a poster at the market and Baz some tea. They are on per diem, so of course we ate at McDonalds. We were going to do the Space Needle, but it was so hazy that you can’t see anything. We will take them when it clears up, if it clears up.
As we close the book on the summer, I can’t help but think that this will be The Summer. I’m sure you had a summer like that – a summer you look back to in your childhood. It stands out golden and long and joyful, and is the marker for what summer should be. My Summer was when I was 9, and it included a pond and a raft, waves of grasshoppers that would explode from every footstep I took and journeys through the wild woods behind my house.
This summer, Grey was 11 and Thane was 8. And if this summer wasn’t peak-childhood-summer, I don’t know what could be.
We did a bit of pre-season summering with our first camping trip of the year, to the Waterville Valley Campground. It was a superbly relaxing weekend. We didn’t go very far or do very much, and were contented to hang out in hammocks and read books and be together. It was a superb camping trip, and we resolved in the future to carefully plan more nothing for our camping trips.
The summer started a bit quietly. School ended in mid June. We spent the last few weeks of June saying goodbye to our dear and beloved friends, as they prepared to move. We spent absolutely as much time together as possible, including heading up to New Hampshire together to celebrate about five of the kids’ birthdays. I armed them all with NERF for some epic neighborhood battles.
It was a strangely empty neighborhood we left for our longest camping trip of the year, the 4th of July trip, to our ancestral camping grounds at White Lake State Park. We’ve been there every summer since Thane was a 9 month old, and it never ceases to be a favorite of all of ours. You can take a hike, hang in a hammock, go down to the beach, ride bikes or forage for the sweet fern which grows nearby. In keeping with the traditions of our camping trip, there was extreme weather. In this case, we upped our game to include tornado warning, which sent us to a favorite local watering hole. In this case, the correlation between the soccer game we wanted to watch and the necessity to shelter in place was very serendipitous. We returned to a campsite that hadn’t been evacuated, but which had been clearly flash-flooded. Since we include moderate flooding in all our camping plans, this was accepted as nothing more than expected excitement.
We’d only be home a few days from the camping trip when the second annual Flynn’s Fiery Feast came up. It was a particularly peripatetic adventure, since the weather was gorgeous… between storm cells. So we kept moving the people and the stuff in and out, and in and out. Everyone was remarkably good sports about the whole thing.
The very next day, it was time to drive to New Hampshire again (a theme in my summer) to drop an extremely confident eldest son off at his third (or fourth?) year at Camp Wilmot. We spent a special week at home with our littlest one, and got exactly one letter from our eldest telling us what we’d forgotten to pack him. The next Sunday found me driving that oh-so-familiar stretch of 93 to drop Thane off for his first year. He sent three letters in six days, earning the “Mailman” award at camp. When Erin and I picked up our collected progeny, Thane told me that as much as Grey loved Camp Wilmot, he (Thane) loved it more.
We picked the kids up from New Hampshire on Saturday. On Sunday, we drove up to New Hampshire for a tubing trip on the Saco (rescheduled from the 4th weekend when the river was at flood stage). We had a great time throwing frisbees and floating, with the exception of the section where Thane and I managed to get totally tangled up, lose our tubes and I permanently lost my favorite hair thingy. Woe! Thane is not a huge fan of tubing after that, sadly.
They had a whole five days between that tubing trip to recover before it was time for my company summer outing at Six Flags. It rained, but that just meant that there were ZERO lines for the biggest baddest rides. Thane is now tall enough for Superman (the biggest of the Six Flags roller coasters, and a legitimately big one). They have no fear, those children. It was neat to be able to do it with friends, as well!
The day after our Six Flags adventure, we flew to Barcelona and spent a totally jetlagged day there, as well as most of a second, walking the green and joyful espalandes of Las Ramblas. Thane chased the pigeons, we ate ice cream and caught Pokemon and lost ourselves in the rambling alleys of the Gothic Quarter.
The next day we went up to Montjuic on the Funicular, and spent time going deep on the history of that grim fortress – first built to protect the city and then used to terrorize it. We walked in the gulleys where hundreds were executed, and watched the flags flying with philosophical questions.
The next day we took the train from Barcelona to Carcassonne. As we sped through the Mediterranean countryside, the boys opened their dice bags and continued the role-playing games that have threaded through all the fun times of our journey. Carcassonne city was glorious. We stayed in the newer section (you know, like 1600) in this Roaring 20s era hotel near the train station. We’d walk through the high end shops and cross the bridge to go up to the medieval city itself. It was truly remarkable, even knowing that it had been restored a mere shmere 130 or so years ago. You could lay your hands against stones that had been placed there by the Romans as they spread across Europe. But there was this whole lack of self-consciousness of the weight of history that only the Europeans can really pull off. Even the medieval city felt lived in, as though it was home to real people.
Also, the cassoulet was unbelievable.
Our greatest highlight of the Carcassonne portion of our visit was the day we spent with James MacDonald visiting Lastour and Minerve, and coming to come to intimately know the Cathars and the Crusaders who persecuted them. Climbing up to the remarkable towers at Lastours was unbelievable. It looked like a Byronic play backdrop. Minerve seemed barely changed at all from the siege of 1220, except for the Victorian bridge that now spanned the chasms. Between them we visited a neolithic tomb. There are some days where you can feel yourself accruing the value of your life. Days where you find the very meaning that you have longed and yearned for. This day was all that – to gaze on these places and walk their worn steps. It was remarkable.
Adam and I passed our 17th anniversary in the warmth of Barcelona, before we headed back to the states from a truly remarkable week in the 13th century. (And a scant week before terrorists plowed through the crowds we’d just been part of in Las Ramblas.)
Once again, we gave the boys a gracious allowance of a week before the next thing. Although this particular week, we sent them to boating camp on Spot Pond where they spent six or so hours a day on the water honing their sailing and kayaking skills. I counted, and the children kayaked on three distinct bodies of water this summer, in three different states. I kayaked in zero bodies of water. I think this shows that my children are living more wisely than I am.
My folks departed Boston ASAP on Friday night after they finished boating camp for parts west, racing the sun across the country to be in Idaho Falls in totality to witness the complete eclipse. On the way they passed through Niagara Falls, Minnesota with their cousins, Wall Drug, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, the Hiawatha Trail (where they went on a 17 mile bike ride) and Yellowstone. They also kayaked on Mineral Lake at the end of their journey.
They got back from this adventure about 3 days before school started. (Meanwhile, I was hiking Chocorua.)
We were supposed to go camping Labor Day weekend. I regret that we didn’t. It is not restful to be home, I swear. But we were so worn out from all our wanderings that we just stayed at home and took a deep breath in preparation for our busiest season, the fall.
But truly, if that doesn’t count as the best summer of your childhood (maybe your life?) then, well, I’m not really sure what it is you are hoping for. It was a glimmering, golden, busy, joy-filled, friend-filled, nature-filled, history-filled, ice-cream-filled summer, and I will treasure it forever.
There comes a point where you just shut down your computer on a Friday, and don’t open it up for a week. I hit that point. Man, did I need a vacation. I’m so grateful I’ve gotten it! Meanwhile, Camp Gramp is in full swing. Instead of the typical email updates, my mom has been posting Facebook updates. I can’t blame her for it, but in the interests of stealing her writing and using it as my own (hey, it’s not a vacation if I have to work, right?) I’m reposting here for your delectation!
Camp Gramp Day 1 – Saturday
We are here! The tents are up! The sleeping bags are out! The children are happily playing. They are old enough now for some self-determination, so they have decided our destination in Canada will be Vancouver. The criteria is — a good science museum! Parents are raising these kids right!
Two kids have outgrown their tents, and a third tent is on its last legs. We have two new tents and will need to replace a third.
Camp Gramp – Day 3
Today started with a bang. A flat tire. The van has a spare, but it is under the front seat and really hard to get to. We played old people and used our AAA. The nice young man had bad things to say about getting the spare out.
I needed to go to town to get the tire fixed and visit the Group Health lab, so we gave the children a choice. Go to town and chase Pokeman Go or stay home. They chose stay home! They have been upstairs playing together much of the day. When they weren’t doing that, they were playing outside. This sounds like the MOST BORING Camp Gramp. But they are enjoying themselves. I think it is a sign of maturity. First, they can make choices themselves. Second, they can entertain themselves!
It is like a Lan party for Matthew. Feed them and stay out of the way!
Camp Gramp Day 4 — Tuesday
Today is Gramama’s birthday. We spent a while at the lake with the boats. The children did a great job, no one got wet by accident. We did have an incident of a nest of bugs in the canoe, but otherwise, it was great fun. Swimming too. The cake was the work of the W. children!
Camp Gramp – Wednesday
Today was organic farm day. A colleague of mine has a new farm in Ashford and the kids spent a couple hours there. They met Otis the dog, and the chickens. They came home with some eggs they collected. The met the llamas and the alpacas. There was also hay climbing and chicken chasing.
Then the evening was spent on Mt. Rainier at a Star Party. Sebastian was a helper, keeping the moon in the telescope. It was great, but very late when we got home. Fortunately, they all woke up enough to get out of the car and go to bed.
Mom and dad finally made it to their own beloved bed last night!
It is a good 24 hours when you score 3 magnets! 3 of them!
Bad Lands — we have been there before, but never done the loop drive. Well worth the time. We then went to our hotel, got dinner, and went back to the park. I hiked a little bit, then we sat in the car and watched the stars come out. We think the howling was coyotes! It was awesome.
The hotel was not. I didn’t even know they still had smoking rooms. Tonight I put on my PJ tops and then took them off. They smell like smoke! It was in Wall, SD — the last week in July. For the unknowledgeable, don’t go there in the end of July or the beginning of August. Sturgis!
This morning was Mount Rushmore. My oh my! They have really done a good job of crowd management, but 20,000+ visitors a DAY. It was crowded. We saw the mountain, Watched the movie, visited the museum, they bought the magnet in the world’s largest tourist trap shop!
Then on to Wind Cave. It was the 7th national park and we hadn’t heard of it. I took the cave tour in front of a man from France. A fellow tourist was narrating the whole thing for him is great French. That was fun to listen to. When I grow up, I am not going to explore caves! Then, we bought the magnet!
It was an eye candy day. Wyoming is really beautiful. We had a lovely time.
We are in Billings. We hope to wander a little in Montana tomorrow, and make it home sometime Friday. I don’t know what the odds are that this is our last night out. You know, the horse to the stable syndrome! It has been a fabulous month!