For one of my graduate degree courses I was tasked with creating a podcast on any subject I wanted. Because I love theatre and libraries, I created this gem. I hope you enjoy the first episode of my Podcast Arts in Your Library: Beyond Disney Musicals: A Family Guide to Broadway in Tampa Bay and at Your Pinellas Library.
The following was written by Donna Jean (Franks) Schmid, my grandmother. All punctuation and poetry are hers alone. I believe it was written for a Wooster Historic Society or Daughters of the American Revolution (or the like) event where she spoke; no date was listed in her handwritten notes.
“This is my favorite time of year. I am invigorated by the crispness in the air, the gorgeous colors of fall leaves. For me this is a time of renewal, I hope you too can relate to the bounteous harvest and enjoy the fruits of your gardens and trees.
While we are putting our tilled areas to rest, we can dream of next year and the reading and sifting of information during the more dormant months. This is an especially beautiful area and it is no wonder that our ancestors found it to be so. In the coming weeks we can make use of the conveniences? at our command and get to really know those who went before us. Can’t you feel their characters emerge from the thing you read about their lives? Reread portions of Wayne County history books, perhaps the Douglas book, and imagine the wayour area once was. Then place your ancestors in the scenario. Great!
I look out my dayroom window and see the dreamy lilac of the Russian Sage and I think of my grandmother’s starched cotton dress and actually remember the feel of her soft white hair as I plaited and wound it into a bun. Isn’t it odd the things we remember?
I remember the fields of glowing orange pumpkins my father raised and see him in memory with a spade over his shoulder and bending his back, clearing drainage ditches on the lowlands. I see his chambray shirt and faded jeans – you know, I really would like to ask him about the reunion of the Franks family which he attended. What was Grandpa like when he was young? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to peek in a window at evening and see the family gathered around the piano and hear the blended singing of the old songs? How about the homey smells of baking bread, frying ham and then too canning and making jam for the cold days? Do you remember the early orphaned lambs behind the old wood range? Or the bleats of sheep on the hillside? How about the ringing of the dinner bell? The smell of drying hay – the prickly stems as it was tramped into the snow? I remember. I remember and my soul yearns for the old ways.
But then I think of electricity and the inefficient kerosene lamps. I think of penicillin and I guess time and progress is not so bad – just different.”
After discovering the above writing in my grandmother’s Bible, I realized I never really knew who she was or how she felt about life and memory. I didn’t know that autumn was her favorite time of the year, or that she experienced intense desire to return to the old ways. I can’t describe her memories of life on the farm because I never really asked. We visited the farm almost every summer and I never thought about it being a working farm. And now the farm is for sale, and I won’t be returning to it. I’m mostly okay with that since Ohio was rarely a happy place to visit.
There was one visit though where my grandparents were at their finest. Keith and I visited them about 10 years ago for Easter, just the two of us, and they were full of such joy showing us the countryside and their community. Unfortunately, I don’t recall many details from that visit but I wish I did. I do remember my Grandma insisting on making us food to take to the airport because airport restaurants had terrible food. She rarely cooked by that point, but managed to scrounge up a thick slice of ham and fry it up for the best ham sandwich of my life.
I guess what I’m trying to write is this: I am confident that my Grandma loved me, she just didn’t usually know how to show it. But as the generations were added to the family, it seemed like she figured things out a little better with this business of love. She ALWAYS made time to love my boys and talk with them about their lives. She hung their art on her fridge. She loved them.
For my mom’s sake, I wish she could have figured out love sooner. She never really told my mom that she loved her, and that’s something my mom carries with her. Breaking a cycle is incredibly difficult, but my mom and her sisters figured it out and my cousins, brother, and I feel fiercely loved by our parents. And I know I love my two boys no matter what, and tell them as well as show them every day. So in her way, my Grandma taught me to love unlike she had loved, in an infinitely forgiving and exponential way so there can be zero doubt in it.
E: I miss the houses. I miss all the houses.
L: I miss all the houses, too, buddy.
E: I feel sad.
L: I feel sad, too. It’s okay to be sad.
My conversation with Elliot yesterday morning sums up how I feel about being on the tail end of a wonderful vacation. Clearly, he misses the people who live in the houses. Who he can’t keep straight because he is three and there were so so many loved ones we visited with over the past two and a half weeks.
As we drove home, I just wanted to be home already. If we couldn’t be en route to a loved one’s abode, then I just wanted the trip to be over. Especially when we were stopped in traffic in Maryland and Virginia and the we were all achingly sad with leaving our final friends’s house. We all dealt with our feelings in different but typical ways. Henry kept scratching his brother. Elliot threw things around the vehicle. Then Henry would throw things back. I anxiously tried to ignore everything, but did a terrible job because of the confined space. Keith stayed level-headed until all the other mess happening in the car got to him and he exploded once.
These bad behaviors occurred so briefly on our vacation that they stand out in memory as exceptions to the overall awesomeness. Don’t get me wrong, they often occurred when we rode in the car for an extended period of time. But then laughter would fill the air as Henry decided to make Elliot laugh instead of hurt him because that was more fun. Or we’d all listen to an audiobook waiting to hear how things would end for “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” or “Ugly Cat and Pablo.” Or a kid would fall asleep mid-sentence bringing the car to a peaceable silence. I couldn’t ask for better travel companions. I love them all the most.
We stopped at Santee State Park on the edge of Lake Marion before checking into our hotel for the night. A last-minute decision, its beauty at sunset filled the sky with warmth. We stood near the docks enjoying the cool breezes the end of the day brings, and then raced to the playground for the kids to burn off their sitting-all-day energy. We’ll have to return another day to conquer its several hiking trails. On our way out of the park as darkness surrounded us, we discovered 7 deer alongside the road including a fawn. The boys found them especially delightful. I forget how rare it is for suburban kids to see wild animals outside a zoo. I think I’m going to work on finding the wonder in the ordinary and see what happens.
A nice way to close out a fantastic vacation is to not really have anything planned and to simply enjoy our friends’ company.
Kate and I (and all the little boys plus Keith) took a walking tour of two playgrounds and a trail. The littles liked climbing the rocks more than the actual playgrounds, as they should. Keith loved the large trees towering over the trail. We could have hit up a third playground to complete our play triangle, but our hunger for second breakfast persuaded us otherwise.
Swimming wore out the kids and created a meatball monster in Elliot. We calculated that he ate at least 10 meatballs as part of his lunch that included pasta and peas. During nap time, Henry pulled out his first tooth! It was a bit of a production before he got it out; ibuprofen plus a special placebo concoction created by Jon helped make the pain go away.
We finished the day was some blue bear ice cream sandwiches and loads of running around. Fueled by dessert or just full of energy, it was a joyous end to our day.
When did I become the kind of person who attends church services while on vacation? Sometime during between Keith graduating Seminary in 2011 and now. I think it’s because it’s just so rare for all 4 of us to sit together during worship that I want to take advantage of it whenever I can. Also, it definitely helps to attend our friends’ churches where they’re preaching and presiding. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a close friend give you the bread of life for communion, but it’s an indescribably special moment that keeps me smiling all week. It makes me happy just thinking about it, and I typically receive communion from my own husband.
We worshipped at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland yesterday, and Kate gave an excellent sermon. The band played some of my favorite songs, and we noisily sat with the Costas (although Elliot moved up a row so he’d have more dancing and playing space).
Afterwards, we swam and enjoyed each other’s company. And ate tacos. A great day on a vacation full of great days.
Beavertail State Park in Jamestown got its name because of its shape – people thought it clearly looked like a beaver’s tail. I didn’t really see it like that, but it’s possible. Before we headed off the island, we visited this park because it’s Hudson’s (Cindy’s dog) happy place. Not only that, it’s incredibly beautiful with its rocks jutting out into the sea and a lighthouse overlooking the southern tip of the peninsula.
We climbed some of these giant rocks that were mostly safe for kids to be scurrying over, and walked along the coast. I’m so happy we made it, because it’s such a peaceful place. Especially when contrasting it with driving among the vehicles on I-95 (our main portion of the day).
We took a break in Metuchen, New Jersey to see our good friend Chris (we hope you feel better soon, Lisa!) It had been eight years since he and Keith graduated from seminary, so you can imagine the catching up that occurred. On our southerly drive, we ticked off the last few new states for the kids – Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware – so now the only ones left are ones we’ve traversed before.
Arriving in Maryland, we received Costa love and Henry relished his big brother role by reading to the three-year-olds at bedtime. More fun and hijinks to ensue in the next couple of days here.
Total miles driven = 412 Miles
The boys did an admirable job of walking all over the town of Newport, Rhode Island. We spent our morning hiking the Cliff Walk and imagining ourselves residing in the mansions along the way. We hopped over the rocks, traveled through tunnels, built (and knocked over) stacks of rocks, and watched crabs scuttle along. We walked over 3 miles, with Henry going the whole way and Elliot being carried for a good portion of the trail. We drove past the mansion-fronts afterward and headed home for a lunch of ice cream and pizza (because vacation).
We rode the ferry from Jamestown back over to Newport for dinner. The boat was packed like sardines because the majority was headed to the Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams. Since we were not, we snagged a table without a wait at one of Cindy’s favorite places. We keep getting relegated to the corner with the kids, but I like it because it allows for more mischief (and this time a window-seat to people gaze). We capped off our day swimming in Cindy’s neighbor’s pool and hot tub, which was exceedingly kind of Joe. I love hot tubs (and so did the boys)!
A big driving day means saying goodbye to loved ones, but also saying hello to other people we love. Hen had been clamoring to hit up Black’s gift shop the ENTIRE time we were in Wolfeboro so we stopped on our way out. He and Elliot bought treasures: a set of rocks and a red car. The thrill was real, and they still have money to spend the last few days of our trip. We also stopped by the Yum Yum Shop because no one can leave Wolfeboro without first eating a gingerbread cookie from there. Happy to oblige, the kids chose ones with frosting, Keith ordered a gingerbread donut, and I ate a praline cookie (& the rest of El’s).
We had the brilliant plan to drop by Maine on our way to Rhode Island since none of us had ever gone, and we were so close we felt we just had to go. Our plans unexecuted; we didn’t make it to the art museum or the beach in Ogunquit, but we did eat a wonderful lunch and hang out at the library. We made the executive decision to return to Maine and do it up right the next go-around.
After being stuck in Massachusetts traffic for forever, we made it to my cousin Cindy’s home. The wild littles needed to run off their energy so we visited the best park – huge things to climb, a zip line, and tall slides – the kids loved it. And the adults spent so much time catching up that I forgot to take photos. Jamestown is beautiful (I feel like a broken record saying it so much on this trip, but it’s the truth!)
Total Miles Driven = 207 miles
Lake Winnepesaukee’s majestic mountains surround it’s clear waters, which makes for a wonderfully peaceful boat ride across the lake. Except if you have two littles with you. Then it’s still mostly peaceful interspersed with loud kids singing/yelling the lyrics to their favorite songs while dancing on the life jacket bins. Or something like that. We hung out on the third level, and the cool breezes made everything better.
After nap time (especially for “the Bill”), we headed downtown to hear the band practice for its evening performance. The boys danced like no one was watching, except they knew some people were watching so they danced extra wild. My boys really bring everyone in their lives such joy. I know all parents say that, but there’s a light within mine that they can’t help but share it with the world. We ate delicious seafood for dinner (swordfish tacos that made me actually like swordfish, and all of the avocado Elliot could bum off of others). The evening’s magic permeated our hearts.
Elliot woke up this morning wanting to visit the Village Creeme Stand. Immediately. It tasted that amazing. Too bad it doesn’t open until 10am, or we’d be eating it for breakfast.
Our last morning in Bristol was delightfully spent doing the same things we did yesterday. We ate at Snaps, played in the town square (this time at its excellent playground), and visited with Tom and Claire at their home. Elliot and Henry fed the horse (bye bye Lil’ Sebastian) carrots.
Driving through the Green Mountains, Keith and I marveled at their heights and hidden wonders like waterfalls and walkways. We broke for lunch at Rollins State Park in New Hampshire. Henry called it “amazing” and thanked us for taking him to this park. He also said we should come here every time we visit New Hampshire.
We got back on the road, and swiftly made it to the Petersen’s home in the Waumbeck Woods. We love them, including their new puppy, Tucker. We headed to downtown Wolfeboro for dinner, but since there was a long wait we just had to have our dessert first (mom, you’d be so proud). Ice cream as a first course is always a good idea. The Mexican food we had afterwards was also delicious. Wolfeboro looks way different in the summer than the winter, which is the last time we visited. I love it now!
Total Miles Driven = 181 miles