Day Six: All week long we had been reading about the approaching storm (Irene, downgraded from “hurricane” to “tropical storm”). Since I knew we might be stuck in the house for more than 24 hours, I made sure to visit Lovell Library (the closest library to our town) on Friday morning with the kids. Author Stephen King is Lovell’s most famous summer resident, and a huge benefactor to the town. Recently he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the library, and although circulation remains small (most of the books are from the 1950s and 60s, and other than the complete collection of Stephen King books and a few bestsellers, current books are available mostly by special order or interlibrary loan), the library is a little gem. We checked out several children’s books and a few appropriate DVDs in anticipation of the storm.
Friday afternoon we went to Virginia Lake. This is a remote mountain lake not far from our house, but most definitely off the beaten track and not visible from any road. The dirt road leading to the lake is in very bad condition and a vehicle must have high ground clearance to be able to navigate the many ruts and boulders in one’s path. There is only one summer home located on the lake, which is rarely occupied. The rest of the shoreline is conservation land. Mostly only locals know about Virginia Lake, and how to get there. Usually when we’ve gone there, we’re the only ones on both the shore and in the water, so it’s an ideal place for observant Jews who are concerned with tznius (modesty issues) to swim and relax. The water is very clean – – you can see at least 10′ down – – and there are usually loons (a type of duck with a very haunting call) diving for fish.
Although we own plenty of life vests and two kayaks, each boat is very small and meant only for one passenger. Since there was no room for us to accompany them in the boats, we started the kids out in very shallow water and had them go just a short distance up and down the shoreline. As their confidence and skill with the kayak paddles grew, they were able to go farther distances (but not so far that we couldn’t reach them within seconds in case of an emergency). Of all the activities we had experienced during this action-packed week, kayaking got their vote as the most favorite activity.
Day Seven: On Shabbos, besides the usual davening and meals, we played many different board games. The kids liked “Charades.” The time passed surprisingly quickly and the weather stayed clear.
Day Eight: Originally we had planned on going to the Air Show in Brunswick, Maine, but due to Irene, the Air Show was cancelled. Tropical storm Irene visited us on Sunday with huge amounts of rain, but since we had the DVDs (their favorite was “Fly Away Home” about migrating geese), board games and books, no one felt terribly confined but after a week of so much action they were nevertheless spoiled, and boredom set in.
The kids started to bicker – mostly normal sibling rivalry – but I just hate that stuff. Mediating did not help. So I tried distraction. I took one of the kids and gave him a carpet beater (the plastic hand-held one I got in the shuk during my trip to Israel). I hung my rugs out on the railing under the covered front porch and told him that I had a job for him. I needed to have the rugs cleaned. The harder he could hit, I told him, the better. He beat the heck out of my rugs while getting out all his frustration and my rugs really did get cleaner in the process. A win-win! He was tired when he finished (amazingly he enjoyed the work… this child labor thing ain’t so bad!) and forgot what the fight with his brother had been about when he came back in.
Even though there was a power outage, we were unaffected due to our solar and battery power and being off the grid. As the day progressed and the storm abated, my husband gave the children a firearms safety class and then, individually, taught them how to shoot a real gun from our front porch towards a target we tacked onto a nearby tree. (Yes, we had gotten their parents’ permission beforehand.) The younger two shot bulls-eyes with a pellet gun, and the older two shot with a .22. We gave them the shot-up paper targets as souvenirs to show off to their parents, but also warned them not to talk about guns when they were going through airport security!
Day Nine: The last day. Monday came, and although in some areas the roads were bad due to damage from Irene, we were nevertheless able to make our way to the airport without incident. Fortunately the flight had been booked for Monday several weeks in advance, because we thought the kids would be at the now-cancelled Air Show (due to Irene) all day Sunday. Had we booked tickets for Sunday they wouldn’t have been able to fly due to Irene, and there wouldn’t have been space on any of the now-crowded outgoing Monday flights, so it was all for the best. The kids were very excited about the upcoming flight! We said our goodbyes at the gate (as unaccompanied minors, I was allowed to go into the terminal with them until the moment they boarded) and suddenly, a week of constant motion (and commotion) was over. I am happy that the Maine experience was a positive one and that they will have many memories that they will cherish. But at that moment, completely exhausted, my only thought was, “How the heck was I ever a full-time mother to young children?”
Just like that, with their departure, life slowed to a near-halt. It’s quiet . . . awfully quiet.
The next day my daughter called. “The kids can’t stop talking about Maine,” she said. “They are already making plans for next year!”
Eek! Calgon, take me away!