We’ve been planning it for months, and yet I was still not prepared. My babies have gone off to summer camp!!! One of the perks of teaching is that R and I are both mostly home in the summer, so our kids have never needed to go to camp. And I love that. I love that summer is down time, not rushing from one day camp or activity to another. But I also remember summers at camp as among the best times in my childhood – and I want my kids to have that experience too.
Enter Camp Roanoke, located just 30 minutes from my parents home in Virginia. Fletcher and my oldest nephew, Riley, are spending the week at sleep-away camp while Lola Gray and cousin Finn are participating in the day camp. And I am home in Savannah without children. It feels very strange . . .
A more apt title for this post might be “What have we started???”
This past weekend, we took our little fiddlers to north Georgia, in the foothills of the Appalachian, for the 2013 Bear on the Square mountain festival in Dahlonega. It was amazing. The festival brought together traditional musicians and craftspeople for a weekend of festivities, and while the headline acts on the main stage were certainly impressive, the really exciting thing about the festival is that the entire downtown area turns int one big jam session. You couldn’t walk 10 steps without coming upon a group of folks just playing music. And, as we predicted, it took no time at all for Fletcher and Lola to want in on the act.
They picked a sunny corner and each played a few tunes. Right away people stopped to listen, and within a matter of minutes, they earned their very first (gold) dollar! We did other things – listened to some great music, ate ice cream and shopped for souvenirs, learned to felt soap and build boxes with clay. The kids even got to pan for gold and Lola found a raw ruby! But after that first taste of playing fiddle for an audience, those kids really only had one thing on their minds.
It was an amazing thing to watch! Crowds gathered whenever they started playing. People threw dollar bills into their open violin cases and told them they were investing in the future of fiddle music. I can’t even begin to imagine how many photos and videos of my children are out there right now – everyone pulled out their cameras. And the kids loved every second of it. They quickly figured out a system where they took turns playing songs – Lola even started to dance a little while Fletcher played. That girl was born to be on stage. We forced the kids to stop playing so we could sit and eat a late lunch at the Crimson Moon, but no sooner did we walk in the door than the band invited the kids to come on stage and play a tune! Guess who jumped at the chance (and dragged her brother with her!) I honestly don’t know where she gets it. The child is fearless.
All total, the kids earned just over $86 in tips for their fiddling. Not bad for a days work. But more than the money, I think it was a huge boost to their confidence – Lola in particular just blossomed. She only knows four songs, and she played them over and over (and got a lot better in the process!) but even when she was just playing scales people would clap for her. These kids have big plans for the next festival – I can only imagine that next year they will show up armed with a plan and ready to perform!
Five summers ago we spent an incredible week with the Gaddy family on Anna Maria Island in Florida, and this year we revisited the vacation with equally incredible results. The family has grown since then, and Fletcher and Lola Gray were thrilled to have 2 little cousins around to play with all week. Grandmama and Grandaddy and their aunts and uncles spoiled them rotten, as they should. We spent one very hot and fun-filled day in Sea World, but mostly we lounged on the beach, swam in the pool, ate a lot and enjoyed the amazing Gulf sunsets each night. Lola was, predictably, a little fish – we could hardly get her out of the water to eat and sleep! Uncle Tripp taught her to dive and she has been practicing ever since. Oh! And the cousins all slept in Grandmama and Grandaddy’s room at night, which was a nice surprise after 5+ weeks of sleeping in close quarters!
Heading south again was a rude awakening. Man has it been hot this summer! Fortunately our trip south included at stop in Roanoke and a day on the lake with the entire Waldvogel fam!
Oh man – I can not believe it has been nearly a month since I last posted! It seems that after Acadia I just couldn’t get it together enough to keep up with everything. I’ll admit it. I was tired. But please don’t take the blog silence as an indication of a quiet end to July! It was impossible to top Acadia, which must go down as one of my favorite places on the planet, but there were still more adventures to be had!
After Acadia we spent the night at a hotel in Portland for some much needed showers. We were able to drive into Freeport for dinner that night with my friend Jennifer and her three beautiful girls. Jen and I met freshman year at Mount Holyoke a million years ago, but she looks just the same – despite having teenage children!
The next day we were on the road again and headed to Burlington, Vermont where my Grandmother Sophie grew up. As far as Fletcher and Lola Gray were concerned, the whole point of visiting Vermont was to tour Ben & Jerry’s. For me, the highlight was finding the house where my grandmother was born and the cemetery where my great-grandparents are buried. I never met them, but somehow that didn’t matter. It felt good to visit. I only wish I had been able to make this trip while my grandmother was still alive . . .
The biggest surprise of the visit was when we happened upon a violin store in downtown Burlington and walked away with a new violin for Fletcher. He was just about ready for a bigger size, and Lola was ready to move up to his old one, and with fiddle camp just a few weeks away the timing seemed right. We tried to talk Fletcher into getting the concert grade violin, a small upgrade in terms of sound, finish and price, but he wouldn’t budge. He knew exactly which violin he wanted. It was a bit like visiting Olivander’s for a new wand – the violin picked him and once that happened there was no going back!
I’ve always wanted to be the kind of parent to send the kids out the door and say “Be home by dark!” But for better or worse we just don’t live in the kind of neighborhood that allows for that. Freedom at home comes in tiny doses, but summer should be about bigger freedoms, new freedoms, and our week in Searsport Shores Ocean Campground was just the thing to afford those freedoms. I can’t say enough good things about this place. It was like summer camp for the whole family. And it brought a very welcome break in our summer travels.
We have seen and done incredible things this summer, but one thing the kids have been missing is friends. They play together pretty well, but the opportunity to interact with other kids, to run and bike and explore and make friends . . . well, we just weren’t sure that was going to present itself. And then we arrived in Searsport. The campground is small enough that we were never worried about the kids getting lost, and it was teeming with children so there was always someone out to play. The kids spent their days biking, feeding the goats, and exploring the fantastic playground. (They were thrilled to find a see saw! Those are becoming incredibly rare!) Raymond and I spent the week as artists in residence in the beautiful studio, and when we weren’t working we all found time for kayaking, visiting a nearby state park, hunting for sea urchins and lots of general relaxing. I have a feeling we will be finding our way back to Searsport Shores again before too long.
One of the best things about a road trip is finding the unexpected along the way. For example, who knew that the PEZ factory is right off I-95 in Connecticut?? Of course we had to stop!
I have wanted to visit Assateague Island ever since I was a little girl and read Misty of Chincoteague. The island may have been incredibly hot and buggy during our trip, but it was totally worth the wait. The island is teeming with wild horses. We encountered horses on the road, horses on the beach and horses in the camp site. One morning we woke to find a horse looking in the trailer window at us! Pepper went crazy every time we saw a horse, but they didn’t seem to even notice he was there! Pepper also had his first beach experience at Assateague – he wasn’t sure what to make of the waves at first, but in the end I think he loved it. He definitely loved chewing on shells and digging in the sand!
Other than the horses and the incredible, natural beauty of the island, my favorite part of the visit was our nightly campfire on the beach. Absolute bliss.
After our week in Pennsylvania, we back tracked a bit to spend the weekend in Williamsburg. It just so happens that we timed our visit perfectly to coincide with a crazy, miserable heat wave and some pretty intense nighttime storms. Keeps life interesting I guess!
We did not let the weather deter us from spending a day in Jamestown followed by a day in Colonial Williamsburg. The kids adored Williamsburg. They have a game called REVquest, similar to Junior Ranger programs but way more fun, that involved the kids pretending to be double agents during the American Revolution. They followed clues and we texted in our answers whenever we solved a riddle, then received another clue via text in response. Along the way there were costumed interpreters who gave out bits of information, all while staying in character and acting like this was a very serious mission. Fletcher Gaddy was in heaven. It was an all-day affair, and at the end of the quest each child received a gold coin. The game was seriously brilliant, and we can’t wait to go back when they unveil the next mission.
Our day in Amish country was about as laid back as possible. We started with a buggy ride through rolling hills and farm after beautiful farm. Fletcher and Lola sat up front and took turns driving the buggy. Even Pepper enjoyed the ride!
Later in the day we enjoyed fresh soft pretzels, whoopie pie, shoofly pie and snitz pie at an Amish bakery along with a cold sasparilla. The day was cool and breezy and perfect for relaxing. I think we need more days like this one.