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Thoughts of Vermont: Sweet Memories from a Summer Meadow

My heart is with my home state of Vermont, simply devastated by Hurricane Irene’s flooding. At the same time, one of our fondest memories of the summer is still fresh, captured in a Vermont meadow in mid August. I’d like to share some pictures of that day — pure cuteness, basically — knowing that happy times will again return to Vermont.  But there’s also a story here, of family and of new traditions…

Several weeks ago we attended the annual family reunion, held at my Grandparents’ Hancock, Vermont vacation house, fondly known as “The Castle.”  A shingled house with all sorts of funky roof lines, The Castle was designed by my stepfather, Dick, as his architectural graduate school project — and was built by the family as they camped in the meadow for a summer. In the group of scanned pictures here {I wish I had a larger version}, there’s Boppy proudly standing in the meadow. There’s also a shot of the house just framed, and beautiful Granny up in the bucket of Boppy’s beloved tractor. We’ll get back to that tractor in a minute.

This was a special place for Boppy and Granny, until they died in 2007 and 2008, respectively. When most people would flock to Florida in winter, Granny and Boppy would come to Vermont “until the wood pile ran out.”  The whole family has loved coming to The Castle, including wonderful Aunt Bobbie, whom we lost to cancer last year.  It’s been a very hard time for this side of the family.

Thankfully, Aunt Sue and Uncle Vic have taken The Castle under their wing as its new owners, which means that there’s still a special gathering place where we can regroup and continue family traditions. One of our favorite traditions once was the thrilling tractor rides that Boppy would give around the meadow — an assortment of his ten grandkids piled in the back of the trailer on the hitch. We would be bouncing along and Boppy would suddenly turn the wheel, put the tractor in reverse, and start backing into the river surrounding the property — eliciting shrieks from us all! It never got old. That trailer was nothing special to look at, but its plywood walls surrounded many a happy memory.

So, at this recent reunion, Aunt Sue and Uncle Vic declared that it was time to give the old trailer a makeover. It needed a paint job anyway, so they decided to let the next generation of kids — the great grandkids– have a go of it. We were missing just a few kids, but the crew that was there attacked the project with gusto!  {Look for the one unhappy face, below… priceless!}.














I’m not sure what Boppy would have thought of this have-at-it approach with his trailer. I don’t know that he would have endorsed such a free wheeling idea initially, but I bet he would have chuckled over the end product. And Granny and Aunt Bobbie would have loved it!

I realized as we were gathered ’round for this project that it was important for the family to honor some treasured memories, and also be free to take a new approach. This post will be a little something for Dick and Dorothy {my mom and stepfather} to discover when they again have power and internet access in Hancock. As of this post, they have neither — as well as no land line, no cell phone, and no way to reach any neighboring town, grocery store, or services of any kind. I spoke with them last night just before they lost phone access, and they were upbeat — thankful for kind neighbors, their vegetable garden, a stocked pantry, and their camping water filtration system.
And as for this meadow, it was completely under water as of yesterday, with the river rising nearly to the front door of The Castle, and luckily no further. We will surely have much fun in this same place next year. Today in Vermont, looking ahead to happy days does take some imagination — but it will come. I can’t wait to get back there!
Update as of 9/15/11: While the initial crisis in Vermont has passed and power and phones have been restored, there is much work to be done. One of the best ways to help with recovery is to support Vermont’s vital tourism industry. Vermont is eager and ready for your visit, and the foliage is predicted to be spectacular this Fall. Click here {vermontvacation.com} to plan your trip. Vermont’s Green Mountains and kindhearted residents will welcome you!
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6 Responses

  1. Sue Ribaudo says:

    Thanks for the beautiful and much needed story!

  2. Diane DellaRatta says:

    The beloved tractor ride! Uncle Arvid(my grandmothers youngest brother) used to take us around his property in his tractor. All 13 of us holding on for dear life. I remember waiting all day for that ride. Where’s that picture?

  3. Linda Suter says:

    Beth, This is a great sunny reminder. Thanks.

  4. Mara says:

    Oh my goodness – is that house visible from 125? I’m racking my brain to think if I’ve driven past it on the many times I’ve gone over the gap from Middlebury (my alma mater). It seems to me like I have, but I could be making that up.

    I wrote my own version of this post today about the Mad River Valley. It’s funny how Vermont just does that to you – pulls on your heart in a very special way. I find it hard to explain to people who’ve never been there.

    Here’s hoping your parents are all OK – it’s been rough going. Peace and love to all.

    • olliebop says:

      Mara, Yes! You know the house. It’s the only one like it and on the way to Middlebury. My parents’ house is the big white one on the right in Hancock, about four houses up from the 125/100 intersection.

      The way these Vermont communities have handled themselves has been inspirational — cooperative, strong, and neighborly. I’m aching to get there (going this weekend) to help and see for myself. I hear that we can get over the gap via back roads between Ripton and East Middlebury. Thanks so much for your your note. Glad to connect!

  5. This is absolutely priceless! Thanks for sharing this slice of life with us.

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