Into The Trees

Monkey’s off at Girl Scout Camp.

Her co-Cadette asked if she wanted to do a camp together, and Monkey was willing to give it a shot, so they are away together for the week. We’re not really sure what the week will hold for activities, but it sounds like tree climbing and zip-lining might be part of the plan.

She and I headed out on Father’s Day afternoon to take her to Camp Sycamore Hills, about 45 minutes north of us.

Let the adventure begin.

We had a lovely drive together. Lots of heart-felt sharing on both sides, and we stopped to save a turtle that was trying to cross the road.

The line to get into camp was already long by the time we arrived.

Excited to begin their adventures.

We dropped off her luggage in this shed:

The house elves will be along to take the luggage to the “dorms.”

Monkey’s cabin “Hilltop” is the empty row with the paper plate attached to the hale of bay above.

Interesting mental exercise for me: The counselors pulled up to load the luggage for Hilltop into the wagon behind a tractor. The tractor was being driven by a female Girl Scout counselor, which surprised me at first, then I was surprised at myself for being surprised, then I thought about how glad I was that Monkey-and all the girls-have the week to be with strong, hopefully kind, intelligent women in ALL the positions of power, including driving the tractor.

After the health check and dropping off Monkey’s meds., we met one of her two counselors, Ziggy.

One of Monkey’s counselors, Ziggy.

Ziggy is in the center in the picture above. She’s Australian, so Monkey will have that delightful accent to listen to all week.

I asked if I could see Monkey’s cabin before I left, and Ziggy walked us outside the mess haul where the girls were gathering to point out the directions to us. In that few minutes of quiet time with just the three of us, Monkey succinctly explained to Ziggy that she has some anxiety, and here’s how she wants to handle it and how Ziggy can help.

Ziggy was so understanding and respectful, and I could not have been prouder of Monkey for explaining so honestly and thoughtfully how Ziggy could best support her in having a fantastic week. This young woman never ceases to amaze and impress me.

Ziggy suggested we drive to Hilltop because it was a long, long walk. To a woman, every counselor who gave us instructions about Hilltop got big eyes and expressed their version of, “It’s a great cabin and beautiful, but it is a long, long way up.”

They weren’t kidding.

It’s a long way up.

Looks rustic: has great bathrooms and A/C.

We found Monkey’s co-Cadette already settled in, and she’d saved Monkey a lower bunk right next to her bunk so they could visit into the night.

Ready for a great week.

Co-Cadette’s mom and I have been talking about how strange it feels to have our eldest kids away for the week. I’m glad they are together. They are both wonderful, wonderful young women.

The house is missing a vital life-force, but I’m so excited to hear about the fun she had when I pick her up Friday.

Why No Posts?

Tempting fate.

It sounds superstitious.

It is superstitious, but part of the reluctance to post has been a concern about tempting fate.

This life we’ve chosen, it’s outside the norm. Our children; their path is different from that of the vast majority of children.

We obviously think the path we’ve chosen is best for us or we wouldn’t have chosen it.

Our children are happy. They have lovely, laughter-filled, learning-filled, interesting-to-them, family-filled day after day.

I’m happy. I’m living the life I want.

As part of hospice and end-of-life doula training you think about your perfect end-of-life options and how you would need your life to change to bring that about. What people would you draw close to? What people would you stop seeing? What activities would you finally do?

This life I’ve got; this is it. These people, the ones I spend time with and learn about, these are the people I want. The ways we spend our days, the trips we take, the hobbies I have; this is it.

Buds would have to write his own vision of the life he wants, but most days seem to be a chosen path he loves. Certainly this family space is his favorite place to be.

This bubble around our life, it is sacred space to me. It can vanish with a too-quick left turn in front of a distracted driver, a visit to the doctor with unusual blood test results, or harsh light from a society that does not welcome alternate paths.

Our family will spend several days in Massachusetts this summer as we gather with Buddie’s co-Ephs for his 25th year college reunion. In preparation, the reunion committee published an updated “Facebook” with autobiographical essays from those who chose to submit them.

Buds and I have been fascinated by these 25-year snapshots of human lives. You can read Buddie’s essay here.

This morning, I read Denis Gainty’s. I’m not sure if Buds knew him at Williams, but if they had met, I think they would have been friends.

We won’t be meeting Denis at the reunion this year because he died unexpectedly on March 26, 2017. He sounds like he was a splendid human (as most of us do after we die.) But, I really believe we would have all gotten along from the final paragraph of the essay he submitted for the reunion book before he died.

“I’m including a picture of me with my kids. Here’s hoping that, through some happy chance, they get to find their own Williams.”

How beautifully that complements Buddie’s final paragraph:

“My time at Williams was sweet. In this open, internet world, I don’t know what Williams my children will find. Change comes and we try to meet it with an open heart.”

This understanding of children as people, not simply an extension of ourselves; acknowledging that life is a series of events that, if we are truly blessed, may lead to happy outcomes.

How delicious it is to me that these two men, one of whom has finished his journey, recognize that their children will/may find their own Williams; their own peaceful beautiful path, if they can.

I fully reject the idea that children should be putting off living the lives they envision until “later.” There may be no later, so supporting them as they wander through all the different ideas and options and travels and adventures, that brings me joy.

And sharing that joy via the blog, to a wider audience, that feels tenuous to me.

Am I tempting fate by broadcasting this joy? This diversion from the typical?

Processing that is part of the journey.

Addendum: I talked with Sarah at Williams this weekend about Denis. She didn’t know him well, but her memories of a splendid, joy-filled human indicate my instinct was right. He and Buds would have gotten along well.

Williams Weekend

Editor’s Note: Post contains video. View at the website for best experience.

Buddie’s 25th Reunion was last week at Williams, and I’m sufficiently recovered from the epic drive home to write about it.

We attended the 15 and 20-year reunions, and this one was the best so far. In part because the children are older and that makes it more relaxed and interesting for everyone, and in part because we didn’t cram all five of us into one dorm room. (This year we had a whole wing of five rooms to ourselves.)

Buddie’s parents drove down from Vermont to spend the four days with us, which means we’ll have gotten time with them three times within 3 months, which is a great benchmark to reach.

Buds loved his time at Williams, and his college friends are splendid folks. Added bonus that we like all their chosen partners, too, so it makes for a fun gathering.

We left early on Wednesday for the first-leg drive to Buffalo, NY. (It was also Bud’s birthday, so the karmic payback of making Yessa spend 11 hours in a train for her birthday in Italy.)

Loaded up and ready to head out.

The quick drive over from Buffalo to Williamstown gave us time to check in then wander around campus on Thursday. (The full festivities didn’t begin until Friday.)

Buds lived in “The Old I” (stood for “the old infirmary”) for part of his Williams tenure. He lost his room key so he would climb in this window to get in his room.

Buds looking at the window he used to climb into.

We headed to the gym and wrestling room to see what had changed…not much.

The indoor track.

Buddie’s mom brought a cake to celebrate his birthday.

It’s says “46” and “25.” Perfect topping for the weekend.

Mary’s almost been caught by all three grands.

After a rather painful night in the dorms, we headed out to the Mass MOCA Museum in North Adams, MA.

(Note to self for the reunion in five years: Rent a house off-campus with college friends. Staying on-campus was fun and easy, but not comfortable. Do not forget the horse-hair blankets and slippy sheets.)

A quick breakfast snack together.

MOCA was fantastic. More time to explore would have been wonderful. We can do that in five years.

The grands trying out VR for the first time.

The musical art room.

Hanging out before the next exhibit.

Buds and Buster went down to Spring Street for a Magic Tournament on Friday night, which they both loved.

Telling us of their adventure.

Peter, Sarah, Ellen, and Eric were Buddie’s best college friends. Ellen didn’t attend the reunion, but we got to spend time with all the rest and their families.

Playing games.

Dining hall meals

Walking in the parade.

We swam in the pool. (Sarah was a college swimmer, so we all enjoyed the pilgrimage with her.)

Buds and I got in a workout.

We enjoyed exploring the new Sawyer Library, which was stunning.

I loved the various carols for all different types of studiers.

There may have been attempts to crush each other in the movable shelves.

The joy of being on this beautiful campus as Buds and his Williams tribe shared stories, pointed out buildings, laughed, and reminisced, it was delightful.

Buds, Mike, Peter in front wrestled together. Eric in the back.

They’ve all known him since before me:

The first time I met the gang in NYC in 1994.

Peter served cake at our wedding.

Sarah and Ellen wore those huge lapels with a smile.

We heard a hilarious story from Eric when he and Peter went to the grocery store in the small town I grew up in. They got asked if they were models because not many men dressed like them in our town.

Williams folks at our wedding.

And we’re all still here, 25 years later.

I watched the 50-year folks with special appreciation this year, and Buds and I visited with some 40-year alum. You don’t know what life holds, but having good folks with you along the way; that’s what matters.

One last note, we drove straight home after the reunion, setting a new family record 18-hour drive. The children, Chip The Dog, and I held the previous 17-hour record. Buds was proud to be part of this new record-setter.

See you in five years, Purple Cows.

All the alum from 1992:

Buds on the bottom right in a gray-looking shirt.