Archive for September, 2014

Mazel Tov! A Jewish Wedding in Maine

Yesterday, which happened to be our 37th wedding anniversary, we attended a wedding in Portland (Maine).

Alas.  Maine has the highest rate of intermarriage (Jews to non-Jews) of all 50 states.  So going to a religious Jewish wedding in Maine, and a chassidic one at that, is surely worth noting.

The bride is the daughter of the Chabad rabbi in Portland.  Her groom is now part of Chabad as well, but his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins come from the Satmar chassidic sect.  It is highly unlikely that anyone in Maine has ever seen  Satmar chassidic Jews, who dress in a distinctive manner, although  I suspect many rural Maine trappers and mountain men might experience a case of “fur envy” for  Satmar men’s shtreimels, which are fur hats made of mink tails that are worn for the Sabbath, holidays, and at life events such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Jewish weddings are always sit-down affairs and a full-course banquet meal is served.  The smallest Jewish wedding I’ve ever attended was for 150 people, but 300 – 400 people is average and for rabbinic families the numbers go up to 600 – 1200 guests!  That’s because Orthodox Jewish extended families are very large, and besides friends and neighbors, even distant relatives are included.

At the start of the wedding, a welcome reception was held for the bride and groom – in separate rooms.  The women gathered around the bride, wishing her mazel tov (congratulations) while noshing on hor d’oeuvres; the bride greeted each female guest by bestowing upon them many blessings, wishing them good health, or to single women, the wish that they may find their bashert  (predestined life partner) soon.  (A bride and groom are considered to have a heightened power of prayer during this spiritual day.)  Meanwhile, in the men’s reception area, the men are busy making a l’chaim (a toast) and witnessing the signing of the ketuba, the marriage contract that is the ancient precursor to a modern pre-nup, in which the husband must guarantee to support his wife with food, shelter and clothing.

The groom is then ushered out of the men’s reception room, and walks, accompanied on either side by his father and future father-in-law and grandparents, to the room where his bride waits expectantly.  All the male guests follow behind him, singing songs of joy.

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The groom  is led from the men’s reception hall, flanked by his father and father-in-law.  They are making their way to the bride, where she awaits him to place a veil upon her head.

 

Once he reaches the bride, who is sitting in a chair surrounded by the female relatives, he gazes upon her, and places a veil on her head and face.  The reason for this custom goes back to Biblical times, when Lavan fooled Jacob into marrying the heavily-veiled Leah instead of his intended true love, Leah’s sister Rachel.  In Judaism, even amongst Orthodox Jews who have “arranged” marriages, there is absolutely no concept of “forced” marriages and both the bride and groom must agree to marrying their partner that their parents may have “chosen” for them.  If the candidate does not appeal to them, an engagement, much less a marriage, will not take place.  The veiling ceremony is symbolic; it ensures that there is no deception and that the intended bride (and groom) are who they are supposed to be.  I should add that Orthodox women, while they do cover their hair after marriage (with a hat, scarf, or wig), do not ever wear veils over their face except during the marriage ceremony.

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The grandfather and fathers bless the bride after the groom places the veil upon the bride’s head.

 

The fathers (and sometimes the mothers too) then bless the bride.

The mother hugs her daughter after blessing her, following the veiling ceremony.

The mother hugs her daughter after blessing her, following the veiling ceremony.

Now the groom is walked down the aisle, with his closest relatives (usually parents, but sometimes also grandparents) holding candles.  Shortly thereafter, the bride is escorted in by her parents, also holding candles.

Some of the relatives of the groom who walk behind him down the aisle.  Note the fur hat, called a shtreimel, which is worn by some chassidic men.

Some of the relatives of the groom who walk behind him down the aisle. Note the fur hat, called a shtreimel, which is worn by some chassidic men.

The bride is escorted to the chuppa by her mother, mother-in-law, and other close female relatives

The bride is escorted to the chuppa by her mother, mother-in-law, and other close female relatives

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Female guests are seated/standing on the left; male guests are seated/standing on the right.

Lots of guests!

Lots of guests!

Then the bride is led around the groom seven times, which has its sources in kabbalah.

The bride, led by the mothers, encircles her groom 7 times.

The bride, led by the mothers, encircles her groom 7 times.

As the bride and groom stand together under the chuppa (bridal canopy), various rabbis recite seven blessings.  The bride and groom take sips of wine from a communal cup.  The groom places a ring on the bride’s finger and says that she is betrothed to him according to the laws of Moses and Israel.  Then a glass is placed under the groom’s foot, which he breaks.  This is to symbolize that even at this joyous event, the world is not complete as long as the Temple in Jerusalem is not rebuilt and its destruction is a source of mourning.  Immediately after the glass is broken, shouts of “Mazel tov!” abound, music is played, and everyone rushes up to the chuppa to offer their congratulations.

everyone rushes up to the chuppa immediately following the ceremony to offer a mazel tov.

Everyone rushes up to the chuppa immediately following the ceremony, to offer a mazel tov.

A spontaneous circle dance broke out on the men's side following the wedding ceremony.

A spontaneous circle dance broke out on the men’s side following the wedding ceremony.

The bride and groom are then escorted to a room where they will be alone for several minutes.  They use this time to exchange their first kiss, give one another a wedding gift, and have a light snack (to break their fast, since the day leading up to  the wedding the bride and groom immerse themselves in prayer and fasting).

And then:  the party begins!  A full meal is served, but between the courses is the dancing.  There is no mixing of the sexes as the guests dance in huge circles:  the women dance with the bride; the men dance with the groom.  Sometimes the bride and groom are seated and lifted with their chairs high into the air.  There may be guests who entertain the bride and groom with special dance moves, or juggling.  The idea of a Jewish wedding celebration is this:  it is not the duty of the hosts to entertain the guests; it is incumbent upon the guests to entertain the hosts!  People take this mitzva (commandment) to bring joy to the bride and groom very seriously.  The dancing, singing, and good wishes extend for many hours.  The Jewish music’s lyrics mostly come from prayers, biblical passages, or psalms, but they are sung to a blaring, pulsating beat with all the usual instruments (and no, they do not play “Hava Nagila” at Orthodox weddings).

By clicking here and also here you can see some videos my husband took with his cellphone of the men’s dancing.  (Sorry to disappoint that I am not posting videos of the women’s dancing.)

Because the wedding was at a hotel with many hotel guests who were not at all connected with the wedding, there were a lot of polite gawkers.  Of course I was dying to know what they thought of this most unusual Jewish event in Maine!  And that’s when I overheard one non-Jewish “Mainuh” saying to another,

“Well whattuhya know!  I’ve nevah seen anything quite like this!  It’s just so respectful, ya know?  I mean, heeyah they ah, these Jewish people, dancing like crazy, but no one is drunk or disuhduhly (diorderly)!  No one is vulgah.  They’re just happy!”

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Camp Savta 2014 – Day 4: Step Falls

My intrepid hikers, ready for the pleasant trail to Step Falls.

My intrepid hikers, ready for the pleasant trail to Step Falls.

On Day 4 we headed for Step Falls.  My husband and I discovered this wonderful nature preserve quite by happenstance this past Fall, as we were driving to Screw Augur Falls in Grafton Notch, which is a mere 5 minutes past Step Falls.

You are unlikely to find Step Falls in a tourist guidebook, although you’ll find it by searching on the internet.  Originally the land was owned privately by Mr. Fred Wight.  The 24-acre piece of land was deemed “too wondrous not to share” (much to the dismay of his descendants) and so, upon the owner’s death, it was bequeathed in 1962 to the Nature Conservancy and opened to the public.  That said, the conservancy does not want it to become a tourist mecca, so they’ve been rather demure about letting people know of Step Falls’ existence.  Only recently did they put a clearly marked sign at the road.

Just off of Rte. 26 and a short distance from Bethel and Sunday River ski resort, there is a parking area which leads to an easy wooded walking trail alongside a brook.  (If you hit Screw Augur Falls on Rte. 26, you’ve gone too far.)  As the trail ascends, it is possible to see the huge granite face that is part of the falls through the trees.  There are many sections to Step Falls and all have pools, flumes, natural slides, and cascades.  The 250′ total drop makes Step Falls one of Maine’s highest waterfalls.  Close supervision of children is necessary, as there are many sheer drops and some of the slides are pretty steep and slippery.  But there are also plenty of places that with a watchful eye,  are both safe and fun for children,

The water is extremely cold!  We went during a heat wave, when outside temperatures were 89 degrees F, so the ice-cold water felt refreshing and the kids didn’t want to leave.  We spent many hours exploring the different levels of the falls and many different pools and slides, and we still didn’t get to everything.  Even if you don’t want to get your feet wet, the views from the falls through the mountains surrounding Grafton Notch are not to be missed.  They are even nicer during leaf-peeping season (usually the first week of October), but by then the water is too cold to be safe for swimming.  Step Falls was by far the hands-down favorite of ALL the grandkids, and we’re talking an age spread between 2 – 13 years.  It’s not easy to find activities that are enjoyable for all ages, so we really felt we hit the jackpot with Step Falls.

The views into Grafton Notch from Step Falls are magnificent.

The views into Grafton Notch from Step Falls are magnificent.

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Several different cascades, slides and pools to choose from kept all the kids busy for hours, despite the cold temperature of the water.

 

 

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Some of the pools and potholes were very deep

Some of the pools and potholes were very deep

 

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Frankenstein Cliffs and Arethusa Falls

20140907_155042_resizedIn the past 6 years in the White Mountains, I have seen many beautiful days.  But Sunday, September 7, was the most beautiful day I can ever remember.  The day before, it was hot, humid, rainy and gloomy.   On Saturday night, the temperature dropped to 41 degrees, a hint that autumn is on the way.  But on Sunday, the morning was cool, the sun shone brightly, and the sky was utterly clear.  I honestly don’t ever recall such clarity.  Visibility was well over 100 miles.   Mt. Washington was pristine, with the weather station towers clearly visible from miles away.  Not even a trace of haze.

It was perfect hiking weather, with a high of 72.  Unfortunately we’ve been rather lazy lately so we aren’t in the best of shape.  I didn’t want to try something overly ambitious, but still sought a bit of a challenge.  It had been more than 10 years, but we had hiked a 5.5 loop hike up to Frankenstein Cliffs and over to Arethusa Falls on several occasions, and we decided it was worth doing again.

Arethusa Falls, about 200′ high, is located in Crawford Notch. It is a relatively easy and extraordinarily popular 3 mile round-trip hike from the parking lot off of Rte. 302.  (An alternative side trail along Bemis Brook adds .5 miles to this number, but although the Bemis Brook Trail has a steep section, it is a much prettier route than the Arethusa Falls Trail and I recommend it.)

 

If you magnify the picture you may be able to see people at the base of the falls.  This will give you an idea of scale - the falls are much larger than they appear in the photo.

If you magnify the picture you may be able to see people at the base of the falls. This will give you an idea of scale – the falls are much larger than they appear in the photo.

The Frankenstein Cliffs trail, which ascends to the top of the cliffs from the other side of the same parking lot, is a bit more challenging and therefore not as popular, but the steep ascent is well worth the effort when you get to the top and take in the view.  Even so, both trails have experienced extreme overuse and now the trail is VERY badly eroded.  What this means is that the magnificent views from Frankenstein Cliffs and the gorgeous waterfall at Arethusa Falls are still just as wonderful as ever, but the trail is an absolute misery of exposed tree roots and boulder hopping for almost the entire 5.5 mile loop.  By the end of the day, my knees were really feeling their age.

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The gorgeous view on a clear day from Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch, NH. This thumbnail image is definitely worth clicking to enlarge

Although previously I would have rated Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliffs hikes “not to be missed,” the truth is, there are literally hundreds of wonderful alternative hikes in the White Mountains and the heavy erosion made the hike less enjoyable than I remembered from the past.  Also, while the falls are beautiful and it’s possible to go for a dip at the base of the falls, the rocks are slippery and not really suitable or safe for young children.  It pains me to say that there are probably better choices than Arethusa Falls for kids, especially since this hike was a favorite of ours; but trust me, children will enjoy Step Falls in Grafton Notch, or even the tourist-heavy Diana’s Baths outside of Conway, much more.  That said, we felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and felt blessed that we were able to enjoy our beautiful surroundings in a meaningful way.

Camp Savta 2014 – Day 3

Lost River Gorge in Woodstock, New Hampshire is a family favorite – – we took our own children here when they were small, so it’s a great feeling to be able to take the next generation.   It is pricey – –  $14 per child and $18 per adult – – and worth every penny. (For more extensive photos, you can see pictures from a past visit to Lost River here.)

Located in a deep gorge, there are intricate  staircases and over 1000 steps leading down, up and out of the gorge.  The stairs are architectural wonders in and of themselves.

Some of the grandkids climbing one of the staircases in the gorge.

Some of the grandkids climbing one of the staircases in the gorge.

A beautiful view of the gorge.  My daughter and her youngest child are at the top, on the bridge.

A beautiful view of the gorge. My daughter and her youngest child are at the top, on the bridge.

Besides the rushing water and waterfalls and weird rock formations and glacial boulders, there are a series of caves that are fun and exciting to climb around in.  (Note that strollers are not allowed, so if you aren’t prepared to carry your baby in your arms or in a backpack carrier, wait until they can walk on their own.)

Posing in front of a cave.  The kids were so excited they kept running ahead to explore the caves.  I could barely catch up to them to take a picture.

Posing in front of a cave. The kids were so excited they kept running ahead to explore the caves. I could barely catch up to them to take a picture.

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Heads peeking out

Heads peeking out

The Lemon Squeezer cave is the favorite due to its narrow opening.  Once you squeeze into the opening, you must crawl around on your stomach to get through to the exit.  Fatties need not apply.

The Lemon Squeezer cave is the favorite due to its narrow opening. Once you squeeze inside, you need to crawl on your stomach to reach the exit. Fatties (such as myself) need not apply.

At the gift store tourist concession (where the bathrooms are located) at Lost River Gorge, two of my grandkids cuddle up to a "bear."   It didn't help when a few of my grandkids glanced at the merchandise and declared in loud voices, "These prices are a RIPOFF!"  (they were right!)

At the gift store concession (where the bathrooms are located) at Lost River Gorge, two of my grandkids cuddle up to a “bear.” It didn’t help when a few of my grandkids glanced at the merchandise and declared in loud voices, “These prices are a RIPOFF!” ( They got a few dirty looks from the employees, but they were right!)

 

 

 

After a quick dinner back at home, I took my 3 granddaughters, ages 5, 7, and 8, on their first-ever camping trip 3 miles from my house, to a primitive site in the White Mountain National Forest.  The four oldest grandsons had a Boys Night Out with my husband the previous night, and now it was the girls’ turn.  We had set up the tent 2 days beforehand.

We had set up the tent a few days before the actual camp-out.

We had set up the tent a few days before the actual camp-out.

It was a magnificent spot on the edge of a stream that had two waterfalls and a natural swimming hole.

It was a magnificent spot on the edge of a stream that had two waterfalls and a natural swimming hole.

They were VERY nervous.

My granddaughter was fine with the idea of sleeping in the dark, as long as she had her blankie friend to provide an extra dose of courage.

My granddaughter was fine with the idea of sleeping in the dark, as long as she had her blankie friend to provide an extra dose of courage.

Little kids are normally scared of the dark, and in the Maine woods it gets very dark indeed.  Also, there are many strange sounds that they’d never heard before, from bullfrogs to barred owls to the occasional howl of coyotes.  It didn’t help that when we arrived at dusk, we had barely settled in when we heard a loud “BOOM!” – – a single gunshot about 1/2 mile up the road:  we are smack in the middle of bear-hunting season.  It also didn’t help that their mothers were not exactly fans of the camping experience, and made no bones about saying so (the ground is hard, the bathrooms non existent, and lots of bugs).

But I told them that we would all be sleeping together in one tent, and each person would have her own flashlight.  I also assured them that if they had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, they should wake me and we’d go outside together.  I was confident we wouldn’t be harassed by bears since bears really aren’t interested in people  – – just the food associated with people. We had eaten dinner at home and brought no food nor snacks along, and we’d return home first thing the next morning before breakfast. I figured it would be an uneventful night.

Once the girls got over their nervousness, they were happy and excited by the prospect of sleeping in sleeping bags in a tent, and for the next 20 minutes they chatted and giggled happily before finally falling asleep around 9 pm.

having fun and being silly

having fun and being silly

finally!

finally!

About 11 pm I was awakened by a feeling of claustrophobia, heat, and difficulty breathing.  A quick check revealed that two of the sleeping girls had rolled on top of me during the night.  I eased myself away from them and moved to the extreme opposite side of the tent.  But every hour, I’d awake to find yet another body part resting on top of me at all sorts of weird angles.  It didn’t matter where I settled – – the girls gravitated towards me in their sleep.  It was going to be a long night for me!  But I was happy they were sleeping soundly, and the next morning, despite my own cranky exhaustion, they woke up with huge smiles on their faces.

After I moved to the other side of the tent, the two sisters gravitated towards one another - in their sleep!

After I moved to the other side of the tent, the two sisters gravitated towards one another – in their sleep!

They absolutely LOVED camping!  It brought me great joy that I was able to share this experience with them, and create some wonderful, positive memories.

Upon awakening, it was a bit chilly.

Upon awakening, it was a bit chilly.

P.S. Although I own a small, lightweight backpacking tent that I love, when camping with my grandkids I used a larger, heavier tent with an “anteroom” to stow our stuff, and a large open room with a high ceiling for sleeping.   There are definitely better (and much more expensive) tents out there, but it’s perfect for fair-weather camping for newbies.   It’s made by Coleman and I got it for $60 on sale at Costco – – a true bargain.  

http://www.costco.com/Coleman%C2%AE-Evanston%E2%84%A2-Screened-4-person-Tent.product.100116995.html

 

The Flying Chicken

Once in a while, events in one’s life become such a comedy of errors that one can’t make this stuff up if one tried.  Today was that day.

Several months ago my husband bought a high-caliber rifle (he does not hunt but he enjoys target shooting).  He has been wanting to shoot the new rifle for many weeks.  Although we have plenty of room on our property to shoot it safely, our dog is petrified by the sound of gunfire so we avoid shooting practice unless the dog is not around, which is, like, never.

My husband joined a gun club that has a very nice shooting range.  But joining was a story in and of itself.  The gun store in town, whose proprietor is a Member of the Board at the range and is in charge of membership, has irregular hours, and the gun store was never open when my husband could get there, so joining up took many weeks of attempts.  Then, when he wanted to go to the range, something always got in the way:  weather (too hot, too buggy, too rainy), hours incompatible with his work schedule, or people visiting us for the summer, making it difficult for him to excuse himself from the company.

But today was the day!  He planned his work carefully so that he could get off exactly at 5 pm, jump in the car, and reach the range with plenty of time to shoot his rifle before closing time.

As they say:  man plans . . . and G-d laughs.

Today I spent the day cooking and baking.  I have friends coming for Shabbat and they are as picky about food as I am – – meaning, we all love good, home-cooked food made with wholesome, natural ingredients, lots of vegetables, salads, exotic flavors, and whole grains.  That kind of cooking takes a lot longer than convenience-food cooking, but it’s definitely worth it.  There’s nothing quite so wonderful as sharing a hearty meal that’s been carefully prepared with good friends and a few l’chaims.   Also, I don’t like to usher in the Sabbath under pressure with the clock ticking.  So I start cooking 1 – 2 days in advance of Shabbat so I can be relaxed and ready well in advance of my guests’ arrival.

I decided to grill some chicken.  First, I made a wood fire in the campfire area.  Only a few days ago, it had been used for hot dogs, hamburgers and toasted marshmallows, but today, I was going to grill some amazing, quality chicken by searing the skin at high temperature till crisp, then reducing the fire to cook it slowly so it was nice and juicy and tender.  It looked and smelled so good that at the last minute I decided to grill a couple of extra pieces, so I could freeze them and serve them next week.  When the first batch of chicken was done, I put it in the house.  When I pulled the second batch off the fire, I put it in a disposable aluminum pan and rested it on top of my car which was parked alongside my house’s front entry way.  While the chicken cooled down, I was busy cleaning up the grilling tools and the fire pit ashes.

Five o’clock came and my husband quickly put his rifle in the back of the car and off he went.  As I waved goodbye I suddenly remembered:  my chicken was on top of the car!!!

One thing about living in a rural area in the Maine woods, is that cellphone reception is pretty iffy.  And just beyond our driveway on the road, there is no cellphone reception at all.  I tried calling, I tried texting – – to no avail.  The call was not getting through.

Finally I texted:

#STOP THE CAR!  MY PAN OF CHICKEN IS ON TOP OF THE CAR!!!

I was cooling it down.

When my husband finally got cellphone reception and got my text message, he was 5 miles from home.

He stopped the car, but there was no chicken on the roof.

(How he missed seeing a flying chicken, I don’t understand!)

But, to his credit (what a guy!), he turned the car around, and backtracking, he started looking for the chicken on the road.

He found it about a quarter-mile from our house.  And after putting the chicken in the car (other than a little gravel that I washed off, not really worse for the wear; luckily he got to it before it was eaten by a wild animal or run over by a truck), he brought that chicken all the way back home instead of going to the rifle range!

Have you ever said exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time?  Because instead of saying “thank you,” I said,

“Where’s the fork?”

And before I could say another word, he was backing down the driveway and went off to look for that fork!

(He did not find it.)

So that is my story of the Flying Chicken.

Tomorrow my husband is hoping to go to the range.

We are not serving the Flying Chicken to our Shabbat guests.

But my husband and I will eat it.  It’s too good to waste.

 

 

Camp Savta 2014 – Day 2

Since I live 45 minutes from the supermarket, meal planning takes a lot of thought and organizing.  I really wanted to avoid making a supermarket run when the grandkids were visiting, since that meant a minimum of three hours taken away from their vacation time.  The week before they came, I procured a list of non-perishables from my daughter and did a huge shopping of stuff I would never buy for myself (sickening neon-colored  breakfast cereal, potato chips, fruit roll-ups, pasta, Twizzlers, ice pops, etc.).  Then when I was in my hometown for my grandson’s bar mitzvah, I stocked up on kosher items that I cannot easily get in Maine, such as chalav yisrael cheese, milk, bread, hamburger patties,  glatt kosher hot dogs, and kosher marshmallows (s’mores!).  These items we brought in coolers in the van.  That still left a shopping trip for a week’s worth of eggs, fruits and vegetables to feed 3 adults and 9 children.

I guess the excitement of the trip finally caught up with the kids, because they slept late.  That gave me my window of opportunity to run into town to fill in the necessary supplies.  Fortunately, because we are at the height of summer, there are plenty of farm stands within 20 – 30 minutes of my home, so I was actually able to buy what I needed without the 45-minute supermarket trek to North Conway NH.

I got kale and 4 dozen organic free-range eggs (my grandchildren had never seen brown eggs, nor blue eggs, nor small eggs from a bantam chicken, so this was a curious novelty), and at another farm a little further up the road I managed to complete my purchases with green and red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, melon, peaches, plums, onions, potatoes and corn.  I was headed home when my husband called my cell phone.

“Uh, listen . . . one of the kids fell and I can’t find the ice pops.  Where are they?  Ok, can’t talk – – gotta go.”

His panicked voice betrayed his attempted calm.  Something was really wrong!

I tried calling back but he wasn’t picking up the phone.  I hit redial and my husband finally answered.

“Look, I cannot hide this from you – – there has been an accident.  We’re getting ready to take “S” (the youngest, age 2) to the hospital.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Uh . . . he fell out of the window!”

Just then I arrived at the house and ran out of the car.

My husband recounted the terrifying sequence of events:

He had been downstairs in his office.  The grandkids had been sitting at the dining room table upstairs, eating their breakfast.  My daughter was sitting across from my grandson when my grandson decided to get down from the table and look through the window.

Then he leaned forward.

My daughter was only a few feet away, and she quickly reached out to grab him.  But it was too late.  The weight of his little body popped the screen, and he fell through the window onto the gravel-packed ground, 12′ below.  My husband was there within seconds of his screams, since his office door is only a few feet from where our grandson landed, on his back.

My daughter rushed downstairs.  The little boy would not stop screaming.  At least he was breathing!

She examined him thoroughly.  Nothing appeared to be broken, although there was a small scrape on his back from the gravel and impact.  Still, we were worried that there might be internal injuries.

Now here is where they made their mistake:

The first thing they should have done is to have kept him in whatever position he lay.  If he had a spinal or neck injury, moving him could have caused permanent damage and/or paralysis.  The second thing is that they should have called our town’s Volunteer Rescue.  Even though their response time cannot match that of a big city, the trained EMTs could have immobilized him properly and transported him to the hospital, which is located 35 minutes away.

But it’s very hard to think straight in such dire circumstances.

G-d was very, very kind to us and performed a miracle.  Other than a small scrape on his back, the child was completely unharmed.  I dropped my daughter off at the Emergency Room in Bridgton, where they performed a CT scan and determined that all was normal.  The only discomfort for my grandson was having to immobilize him with a thick plastic neck collar for the duration of the scan, with him screaming the entire time.

“Good,” remarked the nurse.  “We like them screaming.”

Versus dead.

Yes, we liked him screaming.  Thank G-d.

The dining room window

The dining room window

The view from the edge:  it's a long way down

The view from the edge: it’s a long way down

The gravel below.  Thankfully he didn't land on the cement.  That's my husband's office door adjacent to where he fell.

The gravel below. Thankfully he didn’t land on the cement. That’s my husband’s office door adjacent to where he fell.

Of course, when something like this happens, you go over and over and over it in your mind.  Ironically, the year before when this grandson had visited us and he was only 1 years old, we had opened the window from the top instead of the bottom for the precise reason that we wanted to prevent a fall.  I had incorrectly assumed that at age 2 1/2, he would not require such extra cautionary measures.  Wrong-o!

My husband was ashen.  He looked like he aged 10 years in those few minutes.  It took my daughter and my husband many hours to calm themselves and recover their equilibrium following the accident.  We just kept repeating, “What a miracle.  What a miracle!”

Originally I wasn’t going to write about our careless accident.  After all, it is supposed to be about a fun vacation with my grandchildren.  It’s not easy to admit that but for the grace of G-d, a tragedy was narrowly averted due to our mindless, careless act of leaving a large window open.  The outcome could have been irrevocably, horribly different, and  I don’t know how we could have lived with ourselves.

But I decided to write about it, because I am hoping that my readers can learn from our extraordinarily stupid mistakes – – the open window and our first-response actions – – and avoid a completely unnecessary tragedy.  Days later, we still can’t believe how fortunate we are – and we are still shaken.

Three hours after the fall, my daughter and grandson were back from the hospital, and my grandson was truly – unbelievably and amazingly! – no worse for the wear.  So we decided to proceed with the day’s planned activity of swimming and kayaking.

My daughter mentioned in passing that she had a strange rash on her abdomen, and would I please look at it.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was thinking it might be a deerfly bite, which can be quite painful, swollen and angry-looking, and suggested she try hydrocortisone cream along with some arnica gel.

We have two solo kayaks, and there really isn’t room for two people, even children, in a kayak like this.  So standing in shallow, calm water on Kewaydin Lake, I taught each child how to hold the paddle, how to stroke, to turn, to stop, to go forward and reverse.  I was amazed that even the four-year-old caught on immediately and was extremely adept at kayaking.  I restricted them to an area up to 75′- 100′ from shore, depending on their ages, and of course they were wearing life jackets.  The life jackets turned out to be a fantastic purchase, because they wore them even when they weren’t boating.  It enabled them to “swim” quite far out into the lake without tiring.  The water was unusually warm and they swam for 1 – 2 hours without stopping!  They LOVED it.

The kids were able to swim quite far out with their life vests on.  The kayaker on the left is only 4 years old!

The kids were able to swim quite far out with their life vests on. The kayaker on the left is only 4 years old!

An 8 year old kayaker showing off her strokes

An 8-year-old kayaker showing off her strokes

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7 years old

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Some of the gang, taking a break

Around 5 pm we decided to call it quits and head home for a cookout.  The boys started the fire and my husband grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

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After marshmallows for dessert, he took the 4 oldest boys over to the campsite for a Boys Night Out sleepover in tents.  The girls and younger kids stayed home and had movie night –  – we watched Mary Poppins on my computer.

After an emotionally exhausting day, we were grateful that the day had ended well.

My daughter’s strange rash seemed a bit worse, but after such a crazy day she was too tired to drive to the walk-in clinic, which is open only from 5 pm – 9 pm.  She said it could wait until the following evening, and we happily headed for bed.