Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Grand Camp 2013

It’s Spring Break here in paradise. Our grandaughters arrived Friday night but the first few days didn’t really count since their mom and aunt were here. Like the Papal Conclave, the doors didn’t officially shut on the outside world until Sunday afternoon when the last “outside” adult left. Similar to the Las Vegas rule, the only people whose opinion counts for Grand Camp are the old two farts and the two kids. We do only what we want, when we want and if we want. Our first order of business was to have our traditional meeting to plan our week. We all sit around the kitchen table and make a list of what we want to do with our week.  Even Grandpa has ideas at this meeting. We decide what we will do and eat. Eating is very important around here. This year we had a couple of new things like "fried chicken"  and "french fries"on the list.  "Campfire" is ALWAYS on the list.

The list helps us keep track of what we want to do. Then we cross activities off the list as we complete them. Seldom does the holiday end with anything fun left unexplored.  Bowling never got crossed off for two years running and we realized none of us really wanted to bowl; we only thought we did.

One of our fun activities so far has been I call “Retro Cooking.”

I realized kids today don’t know where a lot of their food comes from. Also kids aren’t eating real food anymore. Lord knows what goes into some of the chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs and what they have to do to the meat to get them into that shape.

I have a new cookbook that promises quality results if we are willing to go to a little trouble like marinating chicken in buttermilk or frying potatoes twice at different temperatures. The food came out OK but every surface of my kitchen was covered in flour and grease and I learned that some recipes are just too damned much trouble.

We have also cooked so many chocolate desserts that they totally forgot about the pudding we made, the one I call "Get Behind Me Satan.".

In between cooking, the girls played with the neighbors, built magnificent fires and kept watch over the growing ducklings. Sophia came over on her new horse and we may get to watch the goats give birth next door. They also have a new cow I haven’t even met yet. Life out here in the country is liked living in God’s back room.





Last night I watched Life of Pi. (That’s a sure way to get the grands to go back to their room and watch their own shows.) I had read the book but the movie is even better. I began to understand the book better. The “story that will make you believe in God” tells a wild tale that has two different sets of characters with two different plots. The reader is left to choose which story they want to believe—the factual one or the poetry of God.

The storyteller knows we will choose the poetic tale over the factual one. I left the movie understanding again how beautiful and how horrifying is the God of Poetry. I understood anew that I believe in the God that cannot be explained by facts, who presents us with unbelievable plots and incomprehensible characters. I believe in the God who has eternity even when I do not but who gives me eternity to understand anyway.

I could give you the factual story. Or I could give you the poetry.

Sarah is almost 14 and Essie will soon be 12. I know our time right now is Golden. They will never again be as interested in their grandparents nor have the same relationship with us as today, right now. Their love is cheap right now—all it takes is trips to Check E Cheese and unlimited ice cream in the freezer. There is one exceptional thing that will never change, the thing we offer today, that we will offer until the last breath leaves Beaven’s or my body, and that is the gift of Unconditional Love. It is a priceless gift and you can only offer it to someone special, or someone you have known as a baby. Sometimes I look at one of the girls and my heart almost breaks at their purity and innocence.

Soon they will outgrow us, outgrow the relationship between grandparent and child. I cannot say when this will happen but I know that is the reality of growth. The old relationship will morph into a new one, a more sober one that understands the absolute beauty of love. They will need a test or so, some time “at sea” to grow in ways that only the harsh world can provide.

Everyone needs to go through a trial of some sort. Parents only pray that they will be able to come out on the other side healthy enough to re-group and move on.

The hero of The Life of Pi, Pescine Patel, managed the trick. He spent 227 days adrift at sea in a lifeboat, supposedly with a Bengal tiger in the boat with him, and managed to live to tell the tale. As the hero tells the story from the safety of the present time, the presence of the tiger becomes a mysterious character, a part of the story offered up to be believed or not. At the end of the movie we are left with two stories. Both are brutal stories. In both stories his parents die and he survives. In both stories horrific things happen. Pi asks which makes the better story.
“I’ve told you two stories about what happened out on the ocean.
Neither explains what caused the sinking of the ship.
And no one can prove which story is true and which is not.
In both stories the ship sinks, my family dies and I suffer

So, which story do you prefer?”
And we all answer:

“The one with the tiger.
That’s the better story”
And Pi pronounces, “And so it goes with God”

Poetry always makes for a better story. With whichever story our life writes, we are inevitably left with the hardness that makes for survival. In the movie, we are offered facts or poetry and allowed to choose which story we want to believe. And we always choose the poetry. It always makes for a better story.

I spend my week watching the cool, clean springtime sky and know there will be clouds in Sarah and Essie’s lifetimes. Some events will be thrust upon them. And some mistakes they will deliberately choose no matter what anyone tells them. Everyone needs room to make the big mistakes.

Those great American philosophers, The Dixie Chicks, have a song about it:

Who doesn't know what I'm talking about
Who's never left home, who's never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl's dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes
So, here’s to wide open spaces, room and time. And poetry.

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