* “Savta” means grandmother in Hebrew
It seems almost surreal that only a week ago, I was in my hometown celebrating the bar mitzvah of my second-oldest grandson. It’s remarkable to me to realize that over the course of the next 12 years, at least once – and sometimes twice – a year, I will be attending a bar or bat-mitzvah of a grandson or granddaughter, and by the time the last one takes place, we will be well on our way to attending the older grandchildren’s weddings, G-d willing! That is truly the reward of old age.
Immediately following the celebration (on the Sabbath my grandson read beautifully from the Torah, as well as a lovely dinner on Sunday night), we piled into my daughter’s 12-passenger van – 9 of my 15 grandchildren from 2 families – and we headed up to Maine (my son-in-law was on a business trip, and my son and daughter-in-law, parents of two of my granddaughters who were along for the ride, could not come). My younger daughter had flown in specially for the bar mitzvah from Kansas City, and I felt sad that we couldn’t spend more time together, especially since she had brought my youngest grandson, who is only 1.
Providing the designated drivers manage to get enough sleep the day of the trip, traveling by night with young children is ideal. There is less whining, screaming, talking, and boredom, not to mention bathroom stops, since they are usually fast asleep within a couple of hours. There is also less traffic and cooler temperatures.
We arrived in Maine around 8 a.m. the next morning, and while my daughter, husband and I felt like zombies (my husband had driven up separately the same evening with our dog), the kids were excited to be in Maine and couldn’t wait for their adventures to begin. I decided to put them to work (they are still of the age where chores can be construed into being something fun to do) and had them harvest my garlic crop.
Next they cleaned off the dirt and we set the bulbs out to dry.
The kids wanted to go on a hike. Since several of them had no actual idea of what this entailed, I decided to start with a simple walk along the road in front of our house, where surely we would find something of interest next to Little Pond.
Even though we didn’t see a moose, the children were not disappointed.
By now I was feeling the effects of the previous night’s drive. So I set the kids up with some chalk to decorate my driveway, and went inside for a 30 minute nap.
My two granddaughters who were without their parents in Maine are ages 5 and 8. This was their first time in Maine and they were complete novices to outdoor experiences. I hadn’t planned on any overly exciting activities for Day One; the idea was to transition slowly and build anticipation and excitement. So after the chalk activity, we packed up sleeping bags and a couple of tents and I took everyone to a White Mountain National Forest campsite that is only 3 miles from my home. It’s a favorite of mine because not only is the area almost always completely unpopulated; the campsite abuts a river, a natural pool, and two waterfalls; and best of all, it is completely free of charge. It’s also what one would call “rustic;” it has no drinking water nor a pit toilet. I was pretty sure the girls would not be amenable to camping if they knew they would have to use a shovel to dig a hole in the ground if they needed to go to the bathroom. There was another complication: the area is known for its bear population and we were in the midst of bear hunting season. But I also knew that the bears would not bother us as long as they did not have a food source, nor a whiff of food. I therefore outlawed meal preparation or the bringing of snacks. I figured we could do a cookout at home and then, tummies full, head to the campground for sleep; when they’d wake up in the morning we’d head back home for breakfast. I planned a Boys Night Out (my husband would accompany them) and a Girls Night Out (with me as the guide) the following night. But right now this was all theory. First they had to learn to set up a tent. So, while my daughter caught up on some desperately needed rest, I piled all the grandkids into the 12-passenger van and we headed over to the campsite.
From there we popped over to Kewaydin Lake for a quick swim, which the kids loved. By now the kids were getting hungry. So we returned to our house and I had them search for kindling. The older boys remembered from the previous year how to build a fire, so I let them get started on this while their mom fixed dinner. In no time at all we had a roaring campfire, and were toasting marshmallows for dessert.
Soon it was time for a few bedtime stories and of course they all wanted to know what we’d be doing tomorrow.
“Kayaking,” I said.
“Yippee!” they answered, jumping up and down. “We can’t wait!” they squealed with joy.
Alas, little did we know that the day would not turn out quite the way we had planned . . .