Today my Grandma will head down to her Boston apartment from her summer home in Tamworth, New Hampshire. I came up here pretty much fresh out of the car from Chicago on August 6th and — to both of our surprise — have barely left.
I don’t think I’ve spent more than a string of days with her in the past ten years so the opportunity to be with her, not rush out the door, and enjoy day-to-day moments of making dinner, doing puzzles, taking drives, and watching Jeopardy (and our new favorite — Shark Tank) has been a real treasure.
Her home here — called “Westwind” for the steady gusts that blow through the pines on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest — is full of history from her life, her parents (who bought the property in the 1910s), and the family that came before. Our drives around the dirt roads that piece together the town are full of stories. I can barely keep up with the names in her head. And sometimes — most times — she says things that completely floor me.
Like the other day when we are driving up a hill called Cleveland Hill and pass a beautiful white house with a wrap-around porch: “Oh that was Cleveland’s summer white house.” “Cleveland…like the President?” “Yes.” We go down the driveway (the house is vacant these days) and she points out a small “writing cabin” adjacent to the house. “That’s probably where he attended to matters of the State.”
It’s in these moments that it hits me so hard how different the world is now from when she grew up. Think of Obama’s recent summer vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. Can you imagine him squirreled away in a cabin working on solutions to our economic woes? I can see the Fox News headline now…
It is fascinating to watch her navigate the world as she knew and the world as it is now. And it usually makes me sad because I think it reveals a lot of things that we are losing today. Namely, real community and it’s close cousin: simplicity.
This is how my Grandma introduces herself to the construction workers building a new house nearby that she’s curious about: “Hi. I’m Jo-anne Cave. I live up the road. We have the blue mailbox. If you need help, we can ask Willie to come over.” (Willie is her go-to guy.)
I love that she talks this way — in colors and first names — and that there is still a place in the world where you can tell a 30-something construction worker all that and he’ll give you back a big, toothy smile.
Recently, I have been noticing a real longing in myself for places where the things of my Grandma’s world are still alive. They may be locked in a fierce struggle with the wider, consuming world out there but they are trying their darnedest to live.
And I’ve realized this: I want to not only help these places survive, but flourish. I want to be ninety like my Grandma someday and still be able to talk in colors and names and to have a long-standing bet on when that stone boulder, perched on the edge of the road for decades, will finally fall over.
Here at Westwind, the night air is getting crisper, the garden is thinning, the pond-music of beaver, moose, and bug is quieting, and all the many make-shift beds for cousins have been put away. It is time to go. Time for our journeys to continue.
Thank you, Gramma, for our August days.