Monday, August 3, 2015

LETTERS FROM WABANAKI

When my mother dragged the well-worn steamer trunk down from our attic and said "It's time to get ready for camp," she was talking to me.  I went away to camp every summer from the age of six until I was thirteen.   And not for a one-night sleepover.  And not for just a week.  But for the entire summer -- 8 weeks, from late June until the end of August every year.   The way I remember it, camp was eating an ice-cold fudgsicle on a hot, sticky day.  Or better yet, riding high on the ferris wheel at Old Orchard Beach.   In other words, I remember loving camp.     



This trunk was heavily used



The idea of being away from home for eight weeks did not scare me, even at my young age.  My parents sent my older brother, Jima, and my sister, Nitsa, to summer camp too, so when I was six, my turn came around.  That was 1950, when my parents were still working 24/7, first in the restaurant they owned on Main Street, and later, Perkins Motel.  "Aunt" Chick and "Uncle" Chuck, who owned Camp Wabunaki, gave families from Littleton a big financial break because they lived in a nearby town and knew most of the local kids.  I credit camp for giving me a great start early in life.   I learned to play sports, like tennis and archery, do arts and crafts, ride a horse, and make friends with kids  from far away places and various backgrounds, much different than mine.   





A few months ago while looking through some personal stuff I hadn't seen in years, I came across an old manila envelope on which were written two words in faded ink.



                   LETTERS FROM CAMP 1950-1958



DEAR DADDY   HOW ARE YOU.   THIS AFTERNOON I THREWUP IN THE INFURMARY. ARE YOU COMING UP FOR PARENTS WEEKEND.  I AM MAKING A PUZZEL.  MY NURSES NAME IS PHOEBE STEPHENS.  HOWS THE RESTAURANT.  IS MOM WORKING HARD.  DID YOU SELL THE KITTENS.  I HAD A SHOT IN MY REAR.  TELL THE WAITRESS I GROWN AN INCH.  TELL ELSIE, JILL EWING AND PATSY TO WRITE AND ME ARE SICK IN THE INFURMARY. 

                  



                                        
               










L-R  Peggy Ann Root, Me, and ?

DEAR MOM AND DAD.  HOW ARE YOU AND JIMA AND HELEN.  TODAY WE ARE GOING SWIMMING AT FOR OCLOCK.  I CAN'T WAIT.  LOVE AND KISSES  PAMELA

                                      
                                  






Me -- Second from the left in the front row next to Debbie Gassman




                                                                  July 13, 1952

DEAR MOM AND DAD.  I WISH YOU WOULD COME UP AND SEE ME SATURDAY.  PLEASE SEND ME SOME WRITTING PAPPER AND ENVELOPES.  SUSAN HOLLY DIDN'T LIKE CAMP SO SHE WENT HOME AND TOLD THEM TO COME AND GET HER.  SHE WENT HOME THIS AFTERNOON I THINK.  SO SEND ME SOME MORE COMIC BOOKS.  SEND MY BEACH ROBE.  SEND ME SOME OF MY BOOKS.  DON'T SEND ME ANY GUM.  YOU CAN SEND ME CANDY THAT'S O.K.  HOPE YOU LIKE THE WABUNAKI WHISPERS.  ROSES ARE RED. VIOLETS ARE BLUE. YOU VISIT ME AND I'LL LOVE YOU.   PAMELA
                 










L-R  Me, Lee Berndt, Jill ? (Counselor), ?, and Roberta Ahlgren

DEAR MOTHER   HOW ARE YOU.  CABIN 8 AND 9 WENT ON AN OVERNIGHT TRIP.  IT WAS BUGGY.  THE BUGS WERE BITING.  IT IS SUNDAY TODAY.  THERE IS GOING TO BE A HORSE.  LOVE AND KISSES   PAMELA 







             
L-R  Debbie Glassman, Me, and Joyce Ann Graves


DEAR MOM AND DAD    HOW ARE YOU.  WE HAVE A COUNSELOR NAMED TERRY TERRILL. SHE WAS NITSAS COUNSELOR WHEN NITSA WAS TEN.  I HURT MY FOOT VERY BAD AND PLEASE COME TO SEE ME AT FOURTH OF JULY.  LOVE AND KISSES    PAMELA










Me on the Bottom, Ann Dockham on top
DEAR NITSA   I AM FINE.  WE HAVE SWIMMING EVERY MORNING AND EVERY NIGHT.  WE HAVE A GIRL FROM HI.  SHE DANCE BOOM BOOM BOOM    LOVE PAMELA                
           

DEAR MOM AND DADDY    HOW ARE YOU TODAY.  THIS MORNING NITSA SEND ME A MAPLE SUGAR MAN NAMED PETER.  PLEASE SEND ME SOME CRAYONS.  I LOST MINE.  I STILL AM IN THE OLD INFURMARY.  I HAD A VISIT WITH THE DOCTOR YESTERDAY.  LOVE PAMELA     
                



DEAR MOTHER    HOW ARE YOU AND THE FAMILY.  TODAY IT IS RAINING.  WE STAYED INSIDE OUR CABIN PLAYED GAMES.  PEGGYANN PLAYING WITH MY BATON.  THESE ARE THE KIDS IN MY CABIN  JOYCE ANN GRAVES, PEGGY ANN ROOT, DEBRA GLASSMAN.  I AM HAVING FUN HERE AT CAMP.  IM GLAD YOU SEND ME HERE.  MY TOP ON BEACH BALL.  I LOST IT.  DON'T SEND ME ANY GUM.  SEND ME LIFESAVERS IN A LETTER   LOVE PAM






            
L-R FIRST ROW:  ME AND DEBBIE GLASSMAN,
L-R SECOND ROW:  PEGGY ANN ROOT, MARGO ? (COUNSELOR IN
THE MIDDLE) AND JOYCE ANN GRAVES
                           

                                    July 10, 1955
DEAR MOM AND DAD.  I AM MAKING A YELLOW + WHITE DOG LEASH FOR CEASER.  DO YOU LIKE THIS STATIONARY?  I THINK IT IS VERY CUTE.  CARLEE ASTLE GAVE ME THIS.  TRY TO MAKE IT PARENTS WEEKEND SAT. ONLY BECAUSE THERE IS GOING TO BE A SKIT A WATER SHOW AND YOU CAN SEE ME RIDE.  THEN YOU CAN LEAVE SUNDAY.  HAVE LOUISE COME UP.  SHE + NITSA IF POSSIBLE (O.K.)   TODAY IS THE HOTTEST DAY IN MY LIFE.  WE ARE GOING TO STAY DOWN TO THE BEACH ALL AFTERNOON.  THE BUGS ARE HORRID.  THERE ARE THREE ALIVE HORNETS NESTS ABOVE MY BED.  I'M SCARED.  I SAW CYNTHIA TODAY.  SHE IS FINE. LASTS NIGHT WE HAD LATE NIGHT.  THAT IS WE STAYED UP UNTIL 9:30.  WE HAD A SNACK, WROTE LETTERS, PLAYED GAMES.  I WORKED ON MY DOG LEASH.  IT IS THIS LONG SO FAR  _________________________  I TRACED IT ON THIS PAPER.  PLEASE SEND ME SOME 2 CENT POSTCARDS LIKE I MAILED TO YOU.  I PASSED MY FOREHAND IN TENNIS.  I AM WORKING ON MY BACKHAND.  IN ARCHERY I PASSED MY BOWMAN IN WHICH THE WHISPERS MY CABIN MATE WOULD  NOT PUT...........................
           
















Me and Debbie Glassman (my best friend at camp)








After reading my childhood letters many times, I realize that while my annual camp experience was a bonus for me and I learned a lot, I was terribly  homesick for my parents, although I tried hard not to show it.  It's difficult for me to say this out loud, even sixty years later, but while I asked Mom and Dad to visit me in almost every letter I wrote, my recollection is that they never came once.  Not even on Parents' Weekend.   Maybe when I was growing up, I figured my parents were just too busy, but now that I know better,  I think it was simply called neglect.    All in all, camp was a wonderful time in my life.  And yet, there were some painful experiences that I've never fully shaken off.  I'll save telling you about these for a later post.  




Saturday, July 11, 2015

A PERFECT HORSE

For two weeks in 1955 I learned to ride a horse  --  the happiest two weeks of my life in summer camp.  "This is a one time deal," my mother said.  Although I was disappointed to hear her words, I knew my parents worked hard to send me to camp, let alone shell out another hundred dollars for something they considered frivolous.  

The stable hand told me that Skippy was an old horse and wouldn't be coming back to camp next summer, but would go to greener pastures instead, a euphemism for something I didn't want to know.   A brown and white pinto, Skippy held steady and stayed patient while I put my foot in the stirrup and climbed up on him and wiggled my then-little butt in the saddle.  Deliberate in his movements, Skippy knew to be gentle with me, an eleven-year-old kid, who had never been on a horse in her life.  Most of the time we walked or trotted around the ring,  but once on a trail ride, I kicked him hard, and he ran fast, while my head and heart went into overdrive.   I rode him every day for two weeks, but I knew falling in love would be a mistake because Skippy wasn't coming back to the stables next summer, and neither was I.   

PAM AND SKIPPY, SUMMER OF 1955


After summer camp I didn't think much about horses until I met a real horsewoman, who was my roommate at Gould, a boarding school I attended in Maine.   Helen was only 15, but in my mind she was a horsewoman, not a horse girl.  And she still lives a horsey life on a ranch in Bandera, Texas.  When we were roomies at Gould, she never invited me to the stables, but I loved to inhale the horsy smell from the clothes she wore and the hand-tooled leather saddle she kept in her closet. 

Fast forward fifty plus years.   I am at home watching Nature, a weekly program on public television that I used to associate with old people, especially since my mother, in her later years, never missed the show.   This particular episode was about Lipizzaner horses, and the photography and story were incredible, so I recorded it.   Finally, when Bruce had some time to watch TV,  I accidentally pushed the "delete" button instead of the "watch now" button, so he never saw that show.   My carelessness upset me because those beautiful horses made a big impression on me, and I wanted to share their story. 

A month or two later, Bruce said, "I think I have some good news for you.  We will be very close to the Lipizzaner breeding farm when we are in Slovenia in May, and I think the farm is open to the public."  "There's a breeding farm in Slovenia?" I responded.  "I always thought the horses were in Vienna or somewhere in Austria."  I was partly right because yes, the Lipizzaner horses were originally bred in the Austrian Empire,  but over the years as borders changed, that area is now in the country of Slovenia, although now there are breeding farms in many countries around the world.   

Our reservation for the tour was for 1:00 p.m., the only tour of the day, with a performance at 3:00 p.m., and we had quite a ways to drive.  The instructions on their website made it clear we had to be prompt, so when we took a wrong turn on the road, couldn't find the parking lot on their enormous grounds, and then had to find a bathroom, I was getting anxious. Fortunately, we arrived with not a minute to spare, just as the tour was about the start.  





The English-speaking guide told us that the Lipizzan is one of the oldest breed of horses in Europe, a true horse of royalty, developed by the Hapsburg monarchy for its use during war and peace. The breeding history and foundation lines are too complicated to detail  in this post, but if you click on this link www.lipizzan.org, you will find a website with ample information about these beautiful animals.  Basically, Lipizzans were bred over many generations using stock from the Karst horses, the Neapolitan breed and horses bred from Spain, Germany and Danish lines, along with the Arabians.  Lipizzans are born black-brown, but they gradually lighten to a white coat, which can take six to ten years.  What struck me most about these powerful horses is how proudly they hold their heads.




My camera clicked furiously during the tour and the exhibition, where the horses performed highly controlled stylized jumps and other movements of classical dressage.  After the performance, we went outside and stood along the fence to watch hundreds of  horses run from the pasteur back to the barn where they sleep at night.  Here are a few photos I took, and a short video clip I copied from YouTube for you to enjoy.   Click here.  













Reader, if you have a chance to see the Lipizzaner horses, I urge you to take it.   I am thrilled to have had the unique opportunity to get close to some of the most beautiful, elite and athletic animals on earth.  

RUNNING TO THE BARN








Saturday, June 27, 2015

KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Eating continued to be the prominent activity of our hiking trip in Croatia.  Thankfully, the daily stats on my Fitbit told me we easily exceeded 10,000 steps, so at least we were offsetting a few of the calories.  Some of our best eating and best hiking was on the Croatian island of Hvar, where our guide Ante promised that after our morning hike, he would take us to a family-owned restaurant we would never forget, and he nailed it.  The Lambik Restaurant was in a 200-year-old stone house tucked somewhere deep within an olive orchard off the main road.  I say somewhere because we didn't drive to it.  We hiked to it instead, and I doubt we could have found it on our own.   


HIKING TO LUNCH FAR BEYONG THE VILLAGE PICTURED HERE



Ante waited for us at the entrance gate when we arrived.  Picture this:  four dusty, thirsty, hungry hikers sitting at a table situated among a grove of olive trees,  drinking ice cold beer and scarfing up oven hot, thick crusted bread lovingly made by hand.  Ante knew the owners well -- a relatively young couple whose main goal was not only to cook quality food, but to do so in a slow-food movement style with all ingredients organically grown, either in their adjacent garden or in someone else's nearby.  Their specialty was a veal roast cooked over an outdoor charcoal fire and simmered inside a ceramic dome.   Granted the food was fantastic, but it was also the rural setting -- the ancient stone house, the outdoor kitchen, the graciousness of our cute waiter who started every sentence with I'm sorry, which I took to mean I'm sorry about my English, which was actually pretty good. Better than my Croatian.   Then there was the charming chef, who invited us into his outdoor kitchen so we could watch how artfully he prepared the food, smell the aroma coming from under the ceramic dome and watch the pastry chef make semifreddo for dessert, although that was for dinner and not for our lunch.  weep, weep.


LAMBIK RESTAURANT ON THE ISLAND OF HVAR








THE ROASTED VEAL SIMMERED WITH VEGETABLES



The next day we did the hike to knock your socks off.  It wasn't as challenging as the last part of the Ronald Brown Pathway, which I wrote about in my last post.  Instead, it was probably the most beautiful hike I have ever done -- ever.   First, we were dropped off at the highest point (3500 feet) on the island of Hvar and told to walk along the ridge, follow the red circle markers, and eventually make our way down to the sea. Walking down hill might seem like a cop out, but keep in mind that this is Croatia and that means rocks, lots of them, and at times the path was narrow and steep with dropoffs.  So, while the trail meandered down hill for a good part of the way,  you still had to be careful not to slip on the rocks.   We learned that most hikers take between six and seven hours to complete the circuit, so we knew it was going to be a long day, although the actual mileage was only about 8 or 9 miles.  We stopped often to take photos and admire the views.  With the exception of Bruce, the oldest, Mary Jane, Glen and I wore bright blue velcro knee straps that worked wonders in keeping our overused patella from wobbling around.  The weather gods favored us with a bright blue sky,  moderate temperatures in the low 70s, and a light breeze that kept us comfortable the entire way.  



SORE KNEES?



THIS WHERE WE STARTED.  NOTE: ROCKS.  BIG ONES! AND ANOTHER CROSS.  IT SEEMS THAT AT THE TOP OF EVERY MOUNTAIN THERE IS A CROSS.


PHOTO OP




THE ONLY WORD I CAN THINK OF HERE IS GORGEOUS!


I'm as happy as a pig in shit.  That's what I told Bruce as we made our way along the ridge with 360 degree views of jagged mountains and the bright blue sea with highlights of Caribbean-like aqua colored water lapping at its shore.  And there was this delicate vegetation called fairy grass and white daisies.   Now how beautiful is that.  


  
DAISIES LACED WITH DELICATE FAIRY GRASS


A VIEW OF THE ISLAND OF HVAR.  THAT IS THE CROATIAN MAINLAND ON THE OTHER SIDE.






LOOKING DOWN TO THE END OF OUR HIKE


Yes, I was happy as a pig in shit.  How could life be better?  Here I am in one of the most beautiful hiking spots in the world, with the man I love, and new friends I am beginning to love, enjoying the sounds and smells of nature, and not only hiking and feeling strong, but eating fantastic food too.   Okay, reader, I promise to stop writing about food because, honestly, after that roast veal in the olive grove,  nothing came close.   Oh, wait a minute.  This is not exactly true.   The roast lamb cooked on the spit at the little outdoor restaurant near Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina came close. And the lunch of roast chicken and princess donuts at Apartment Ada in Gracac came close because we were enjoying it with our new Croatian friends -- Boris and Gordana.  And what about the Prsut in Montenegro, and the grilled sea bass in Dubrovnik?   They all came close too.  Life is good, and now I'm on a diet.  Well, sort of, not really.
  



WORKING OUR WAY DOWN




DID WE REALLY COME DOWN FROM THERE?





THE FIRE ROAD WAS MUCH EASIER TO WALK ON



MORE ROCKS




FOUR HAPPY PIGS IN SHIT WITH THEIR SOCKS KNOCKED OFF