The 2 boys arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, about an hour and half late due to an accident in CT which held up the bus. Poor kids. Myself, I was held up 15 minutes just north of Concord due to an accident. One of the head coordinators was several minutes late because she, too, had been held up by and accident!! A friend from Massachusetts met up with us, and we all went out for dinner before heading our respective ways.
It was a really interesting and exciting experience. It took about 24 hours for the three of us to relax and start being ourselves. The day after their arrival, we hiked over 2 miles to a gorge and waterfall in Franconia Notch, then somewhat democratically decided to do Chinese for lunch. It was a great hike, I do love walking in the woods. Many wild plants had ID tags on them and it was super interesting to learn their names. The falls and gorge themselves are an awesome spectacle (The Flume Gorge). After lunch, there was a very definite change in our relationship; a turning point. It was fun to be relaxed and know that the 9 days would probably work out just fine.
I learned about myself as well as about their lives. It helped me realize what it might have been like to have children, and what type of parent I might have been (I hope).
I made a few mistakes up front, but you know, live and learn... we went to a candy store after lunch (a big one--Chutters) and came to realize that I would not have been amiss to assign a quota for each of us, say .25 to .5 lb of candy, before entering the candy store. However, I was pretty impressed with their restraint and it ended up a good experience. Our stop at Walmart on the way home to get some videos was a close call--perhaps because they'd had time to absorb some sugar. They were full of energy and talking almost incessantly (Thank god! That really pleased me, and helped me to relax too.) and proceeded to fill our cart with movie after movie! Whoa! I now wish I'd set the limit before we went in, say, 2 good movies and if we need more we'll come back. So I had to find a way to say that we couldn't get as many movies as they were finding... and they were finding a goodly number of them! Sets of movies no less! Ditto the board games. (But I'm glad to have the games, nice when company comes over.)
We got home, they played cards and monopoly while I checked the situation at work and put out some fires. It was nice to see them getting along well with each other.
We met up with a couple friends of mine from Canada at Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill (great pleasure to see you both again, jak), then we drove over to Mt. Washington and down Crawford Notch. Absolutely breathtaking scenery there!!
We spent time at beautiful Wellington Beach on Newfound Lake, only 20 minutes from my house. They had a blast, spending almost the whole of our 4 hours there in the water. I brought some spinning with me, but didn't get much done because there was a strong breeze. I'm not complaining about the breeze. Oh no. It was very warm and humid that day and night. I stopped and bought some oscillating fans on the way home.
One afternoon someone left the front screen door open, and at about 1 a.m. one of the boys came downstairs to say there were several flies in his room. Yup. Flies, moths, and others. So between the two rooms, an hour went by while I got rid of the bugs! It was then about 2 a.m. so I went out to catch more of the Perseids meteor shower and took in 3 or 4, big, bright, and beautiful shooting stars. So it was worth being up. The other bonus was finding a big barred owl perched on my garden arbor, surveying the lawn. I wanted to take a picture, but my camera was in the car and I knew if I moved, it would fly away. I don't think I got to sleep til about 5 a.m.!
There were some challenges for me, and I'm glad there were. To be sure, some things would have been less--shall we say delicate--had they been my own children, but nothing unmanageable. I took the advice of a friend: I was here to spoil them like their grandparents, and then send them back home to their parents. :)
I was occasionally proud of being able to juggle 3 or 4 things at once, attending to their needs and requests, and making sure they were having a real vacation.
One evening while I was in the kitchen they helped themselves to my antique sewing machine--it was a good opportunity to start talking about sewing. So the next day we went to the quilt shop and bought fabric. I told them I'd teach them how to sew an infinity scarf, but one of them was bent on making a cape. A cape! I told him about the work involved in tailoring a cape--we most likely didn't have enough time to make one. He really wanted to make a cape, so I said if he had a plan for one, he should go for it, but I might be of minimal help. He did it! (And wore it constantly afterwards: Around the house, and out on our excursions!) It was very creative. The living room looked like a fabric tornado had hit it that evening. The fabric was everywhere! They both really enjoyed cutting and creating and sewing. I wish these arts were taught to boys more, and I wish, wish, wish, the stigma attached to men doing supposedly "women's work" would go away. Everyone would be so much happier, and I think healthier if they were allowed to create without all these gender biases. Both were wearing their creations when they boarded the bus to depart.
I think the beach was probably their favorite outing. To be sure, Wellington State Beach on Newfound Lake is gorgeous. The Flume gorge and falls also scored high. That was a 2 mile hike; we also hiked around Quincy Bog which is about a mile, and we hiked up West Rattlesnake: A 2 mile hike. West Rattlesnake is not a tall summit, but the view of Squam Lake from there is fantastic (the lake where "On Golden Pond" was shot).
It was wonderful! We did many fun and exciting things together, and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. Both said they wanted to come back next year.
I am very happy I did this. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd rate the experience a 5 in spite of a few minor challenges. I am happy I was able to do this. As a single, 59 y.o. gay man, I had some doubts it would even be possible. I found out this morning, after the bus was loaded but waiting on 2 more children, that I was not alone in my age bracket. One couple was in their 70s!
I'll definitely do it again.
Here are some pictures of our adventures. For privacy reasons, I am not including pictures of the boys.
Bonus picture: Me and my friends from Canada (jak, do advise if you'd rather not have this picture up here)