I had another vacation at the end of April. I did not actually do very much during it but due to my state of mind over the course of this past year it felt significant to me and I wanted to make a record of it. I will start by putting up a picture from just three summers ago (2015). While the location is not of particular relevance, this picture was taken in front of the at that time former country store in Grafton, Vermont, though it looked then as if someone were trying to get it up and running again. I don't think we have been back there since, though over the years we have probably gone there at least five times, as it is near our camp in Brattleboro. There is a small low tech, what I supposed could be called dusty nature museum there that we always visit, and that it is one of those places I think of fondly now...
This is all sort of apropos of nothing, however, the point of the picture is to see how little everyone still is just three years ago. They all really were children. The two older boys are definitely not children anymore, at least not like they are here. So that is a significant change. And of course I feel that I have departed a certain phase of life since then and entered a new one that, to be blunt, seems even less personally exciting than the previous ones seemed to be. Three years ago I was 45, but how young 45 seems compared to 48! At 45, especially if you have not had any indications of real physical decline set in yet, you can sort of persuade yourself that you still have more than half of your life remaining to you, during which you are somehow going to feel more or less the same, energy and health-wise, as you always have. At least I did, which obviously was insane, though I guess I can console myself that I made it to nearly fifty feeling relatively youthful. Up until four or five years ago as well a few reasonably attractive women in their thirties would still, if not exactly be flirtatious with me, at least give me cause to wonder whether they had some inclination to be so. But even this kind of supremely mild speculation of possible sexual tension seems to be over now. Especially when I am out with my youngest daughter, women increasingly ask me if I am the grandfather now. So I am experiencing a lot of ambivalence and distaste as I go through this adjustment.
On the first activity day of this vacation I loaded my children in the car and drove an hour north to Lincoln, New Hampshire, the gateway to the Kancamagus Highway and the White Mountains. The main destination of this trip was a thrift shop in a shopping center along the main strip, which I had alighted on during one of my internet search games, but after going to that we were free to improvise. The thrift shop visit was a success. I did not find anything for myself but several of the children were able to leave with presents, for a total cost of under $15. Unfortunately I neglected to take any pictures there. We proceeded thence to the White Mountains Visitors Center, newly re-opened for the season. I have to confess that I love Visitors Centers, and always try to find an excuse to stop in them when I can. It's the idea of having arrived at the destination but not having yet plunged into the experience, but being in a limbo between anticipating the experience and having any part of it behind you. So I love that sense of having momentarily suspended time, even if all I am doing is the most mundane activity such as going to the bathroom or drinking water...
Needless to say the picture above is at the White Mountains Visitor Center, which I consider a superior representative of the species. There are numerous appealing visuals and displays, nostalgic touches, a large 3-d relief map set out on a table. The bathrooms are calm, quiet, and reminiscent of the past. I wish I could find a tavern that worked for me half so well.
From the town of Lincoln we drove a mile or two into the White Mountains National Forest and pulled into a parking area. As one of the children refused to leave the car we were unable to walk anywhere where we would have lost sight of the parking lot. Despite the still profuse amount of snow cover it was 60 degrees on the day we were there. Most of April was still essentially winter this year where I live as well. I'm still not entirely caught up on my heating bills and it is nearly July.
Though it does not look it, this is very close to the parking lot. Even for just a few minutes, it was good for me to be out in this beautiful country and air after the long winter with all of its obligations and other problems.
The view from the bridge pictured below. It is a sad truth that I only live an hour away from this place yet I usually only make it up there maybe three times a year, and most of those for rather short and haphazard visits. I just have too many other things to do. It's madness, really. I think it is peak madness right now and for the next couple of years, perhaps, but who can say I will ever have the time for slower and more contemplative days of travel in a state of comparative health again?
Some of the children on the bridge. My son is wearing the hat he got at Fenway Park. We had already gone to a game there about a week before this outing (baseball season starts early in New England). It was my first time ever going there as well. I had previously been to baseball games at Veterans Stadium (Philadelphia), and the old Memorial Stadium and the then new Camden Yards in Baltimore. I also went to a football game at RFK Stadium in Washington once. This is my sum experience of famous baseball and football stadiums.
The next day we headed to Vermont, stopping along the way to climb a small hill with a view of Lake Sunapee. As you can see the snow was melted here. This first "hike" of the year was about 1/2 a mile up a paved trail. As we grow more numerous (and temperamental) our walking is becoming less ambitious, I am sad to say.
View of the still slightly iced lake with the ski slopes of the mountain resort visible as well. I don't know what the children make of "views". I assume it makes some impression on them.
On the third day we are finally arrived in Brattleboro. It rained all day, so we went into town. I went to the used book store (not pictured) to pick up a book that I had been monitoring for 15 years because it was finally coming up on my reading list, and it was no longer there! After this disappointment we went to a restaurant on Main Street that was vaguely hipsterish I guess. The people in it looked like they had all spent a lot of time in modern liberal colleges and other strongly left-leaning environments. I really have not, so I find this atmosphere somewhat stimulating because I feel like something of the social life I never had could have been found among this class of people even if I have trouble understanding a lot of the driving passion and motivation behind this type of education and political position. The sandwiches were of the artisan bagel variety, with an underground selection of juices and other drinks. We had to mix and match quite a bit to satisfy everybody. Someone's sandwich was loaded with sweet potato which no one, including me, could get down. In the end I think we ended up sharing two or three egg oriented concoctions.
After the restaurant we went bowling, which took us quite away from the degreed lefty crowd (though we once went to a bowling alley in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that seemed to have quite a few people there who were something of a variation, and overall a more attractive one, of this type, appearing more affluent and less socially sour than the standard version. Don't ask me to explain how they came to be bowling).
When I looked at this rather melancholy sight outside the bowling alley, the phrase "the era of big parking lots is over" popped into my head. The mountain visible in the background is in New Hampshire, on the other side of the Connecticut River, which would be barely 200 yards away.
On the fourth day we went to Deerfield in Massachusetts, which is about a 40 minute drive from Brattleboro. We had gone there before to visit the Yankee Candle world headquarters and superstore, but this was our first time going to the historic village, which consists of around ten or fifteen preserved houses dating from the 1700s, some of which are furnished in period style, others of which hold special collections such as furniture or silver pieces, or have craft demonstrations. This is the sort of thing we used to do a lot before there were so many of us and it became both expensive and difficult to appeal to so many varied interest levels. However I wanted to have one outing of this type during the vacation and this is one of the places out that I have long had an interest in going to, so we took the plunge. It cost $61 for all of us to get in, which is not too bad. The guides at the various houses, who looked to be retirees and who are almost certainly volunteers, were very good. Personable human guides are a commodity and attraction in themselves in today's world.
The picture above by the way is of the town's Civil War monument--every village and town and city in New England has one--with one of the old buildings of the Deerfield Academy prep school in the background.
Still in the center of the village, turned 90 degrees from the view in the previous picture. I think this is the Unitarian church. The Unitarians of course were very prominent in these old well-educated Massachusetts towns. Beautiful New England sky as well. I believe this was around April 26th, and still no leaves visible.
The two older boys, not exactly mesmerized by the history or other circumstances of the village, but the assumption is that exposure to the general atmosphere will leave some kind of impression that produces a jolt of recognition or insight in later life.
There were too many of us to even contemplate taking lunch at the historic Deerfield Inn, which seems to have been the only restaurant in the village, but the museum shop had a little sort of tea room, pictured here with its pretty windows and curtains, where you could get a muffin and a drink.
A little footpath through some of the local farmland as well as the playing fields of the Deerfield Academy down to the river.
The whole group spent about 20 minutes hanging out and exploring the river. At this point my camera (actually my phone) ran out of picture space. This is an ongoing problem for me when I go out, since it seems like I have to delete 20 pictures to clear out enough space to take three.
This is back in Vermont. The two girls who have so many good qualities we don't even have to talk about them make some homemade pizza.
Here they are standing outside the then still-covered pool, which is open now. We were even in it the other day (June 17-18th) when it was 93 degrees.
This picture is from Easter. The building blocked by my head is the New Hampshire State House. I'm still getting used to my sudden transition to looking old. I do think I look like someone who in a past age might have been a writer or local intellectual of some kind, at least in this photo.
I probably shouldn't put up so many pictures of the girls, but, on the other hand, the years go by fast and one forgets. I have a decent little archive of pictures on here for the last ten years or so, many of which commemorate times that are especially meaningful to me.
Daisy scout uniform. These two are my fifth and sixth children, and a lot of environmentalists and other sour people are pretty open in their belief that they shouldn't exist, but while acknowledging that every child is a gift from God and without praising my own children too effusively, because you never know how things are going to turn out, I suspect in the overall balance of human society and civilization they are going to be overwhelmingly positive additions.