The last two days have disappeared before I knew it. Saturday we broke camp at Camp Tesomas and departed summer camp; the troop drove south and home to Wheaton; William and I took another direction, east to Grayling, Michigan and Beth’s family cottage. On Sunday, William and I drove to Traverse City to pick up Olivia who flew up from Wheaton to join us and we spent time on errands before coming home. At times, I have been too busy to think about camp and writing, but it is early morning and quiet. The kids are sleeping upstairs and everything is still and calm – the perfect time to write. WARNING: This is a long post, read at your own risk.
Saturday, July 2: Camp Tesomas to Grayling, Michigan – The storms we had thought were coming Friday night never came and as I later learned, they were dangerous and caused damage including one fatality in western Wisconsin. Thankfully, it was dry when we woke. I began to roll my sleeping bag, breakdown my cot and pack everything else for the trip home. The scouts were up and busy with their own tents and belongings. They had worked on Friday before dinner and after the campfire to cleanup and pack to be ready for Saturday morning. I had the tent down and in the car before we left for breakfast and the camp video.
Breaking camp is never fun. It comes at the end of a long week or weekend of camping rising early, staying up late, working hard, and we are all tired and struggling to accept our time is up, over, and time to return home to our families and the routine of life. Saturday morning breakfast is our last meal and last time together as a camp. We said grace and it was the Tesomas Grace:
Thank you Lord for this special place,
Where we can make new friends and old ones embrace,
A chance to share a dream, an experience too,
Lord, for Tesomas we thank you.
After grace, the noise erupted and it seemed like a normal meal, food was served, seconds were called, but instead of announcements, the video began to play. We watched, looking for scouts from our troop, leaders, or counselors we knew; scouts across the dining hall were doing the same. There were cheers for a good picture, a happy memory, a goal reached. Mostly, we watched silently, remembering. The video ended, we clapped and cheered, and turned our attention to the center where the staff had gathered to sing the Tesomas Hymn and say goodbye, for now.
High above Lake Crystal’s Waters, In among the trees, Flows the banner of Tesomas, Waving in the breeze, Hail Tesomas, Hail Tesomas, With your Scouts so true, With the spirit of good Scouting, Hail, O Hail to you!
The hymn ended and we filed out of the dining hall and walked slowly back to camp.
It was a beautiful morning, the lake was still, and it was cool, perfect weather for packing the trailer and heading home. The scouts worked together and soon the camp was down and the trailer was filled and locked, we were ready to go home. The scouts gathered by the trailer for a final troop meeting and it were then we had our say – scouts and adults. Each scout shared a success, an opportunity, and a challenge. What comes out is always amazing, the scouts are incredibly honest in their evaluations, they offered great memories and shared opportunities for growth, and learning what we all realize is that working as a troop is difficult. The scouts were quiet listening and when my turn came and I could say what I thought, that after three summer camps this was the best, but I am looking forward to a fourth, a fifth, and more – which will be better. Our scouts and our troop are growing, learning, and getting better with every outing. After all of us have had our say, we climbed into our cars and head out the gate and home. The entrance to Camp Tesomas has two sides: when you enter camp you see the front side and it reads, “Camp Scout Tesomas” and the way home you see the backside and it reads, “Take your Scouting Spirit with you.” We pass through and we are on our way.
The troop headed south to Rhinelander and the highway south to Wausau, Steven Point, Madison, and Rockford and finally to Wheaton. William and I took a different path heading to Grayling, Michigan and a couple of days of work at the cottage before returning to Wheaton. Our trip takes us through northeastern Wisconsin, the UP (Upper Peninsula), along US 2 and the shore of Lake Michigan, across the Mackinac Bridge, and down I-75 to Grayling. The two drives are roughly equal in distance: 339 miles home to Wheaton and 376 miles to Grayling. I stopped in Rhinelander to fill up before and get oriented before heading out. Within a half hour, my navigator was asleep and essentially, I was on my own. Fortunately, it is an easy drive US 8 to Escanaba and US 2 to St. Ignace, and the rest is easy. I can image that the cars headed south were full of sleeping scouts, as well.
It was a perfect day to drive. It was clear and sunny and I made good time. I listened to music and drove, thinking about camp and the week ahead. William slept and he slept well; he worked hard at camp and was very tired. I crossed the state line into Michigan and a couple of hours later we entered Escanaba and stopped for lunch – at a Culver’s. William groaned and moaned about my selection but he ate what he ordered and didn’t talk much. I grabbed a coffee to go and we were back on the road. US 2 hugs the shore of Lake Michigan. It is a two-lane road with an occasional passing lane and the traffic stays close to the speed limit. Little towns and cottages line the road and we can see a glimpse of the lake every now and then. William was awake and I nudged him to take a picture along our route now and again. We made a few stops for pictures, rest, and postcards before we crossed the bridge. Crossing the Mackinac Bridge always makes me nervous, I can’t explain it. I have crossed other bridges – the Golden Gate and the Oakland Bay Bridge and never got the feeling I get crossing the Mackinac Bridge. Maybe it is because the bridge is so narrow or it is the steel roadbed, whatever it is I drive cautiously and stay focused on driving. After the bridge, it was 80 or so miles until we reached Grayling and the cottage.
We finally reached the lake and I drove slowly down the lane to our cottage. When the car stopped, William jumped out and ran toward the lake. Chris and Nick, his lake friends, were in the driveway before I knew it. I told them about Olivia’s trip and that it was a surprise for William and they laughed and agreed to keep the secret. I was starting to unload the car when William came back and I gave him permission to skip unloading and play with his friends; I didn’t mind, it was time for him and it was time for me, too. The sun was setting in the west and our neighbors were in the yard. The community here is special. We see each other each summer and we renew our friendships every year, sort of like camp. I am glad we have this place. It was good to be home in our home away from home.
I finished unloading the car and walked down the shore to get William. We were both tired and we needed sleep. We cleaned up, went to bed, and before I knew it, I was asleep. It had been a great day, a million and six times better than the day before, almost.
Sunday, July 3: The package has arrived – I slept, later than I have slept all summer and woke to a new day. I had told William we had to go to Traverse City to pick up a package, but I hadn’t told him the package was his sister, Olivia. He knew Grandma Weaver had been moved after her shoulder surgery from Ohio to Chicagoland in hopes that she would be admitted to Marianjoy in Wheaton and was waiting in a rehabilitative care facility in Downers Grove. I had mentioned to Beth that it would be easier on her if Olivia was with us and we agreed to have Olivia fly over Sunday.
William really did not want to go and I can’t fault him. It is great at the lake and there is so much for him to do – swim, fish, and swim and fish. He wanted to get the boats in the water that was the reason we came to get the cottage ready for summer and come home Tuesday for the scout meeting; at least that is what he believed. I underestimated the traffic to Traverse City and we arrived at the airport later than I had planned. As we pulled into the airport parking, I showed William the picture Beth had taken at O’Hare and he rolled his head back and I smiled. I told him we’d be staying through the week coming home Monday, the 11th. He began to smile, too. Traverse City is a tiny airport and Olivia came walking from the plane with her bags in tow and her escort. She was happy to see both of us. I signed for my package, I took a picture of the two of them, and we were gone.
Grayling is a small town with small town shops and limited access for shopping and I planned a few stops in town before returning to the lake. We stopped at Target, Oryana, a health food store, and had lunch at Poppycock’s a local restaurant that makes the best Tomato-Spinach-Swiss soup and we all had a bowl. It was the second day of the National Cherry Festival, the air show was on making traffic heavier than expected, and the errands took longer than the kids did or I wanted. They just wanted to get home to the lake. We finally left and made a final stop in Kalkaska at the Cherry Street Market for fresh produce – strawberries, blueberries, and cherries the fruits of summer.
Once we were home, William helped unload, he made up for Saturday night and Olivia bolted for her friends and the lake. I made a trip to town for groceries and came home and we got one of the boats in, set up the deck furniture, and cooked dinner – steak, salad, and Michigan strawberries with ice cream for dessert.
In July up here, it stays light almost until ten and it is difficult getting the kids to come in after a day of playing on a perfect summer evening. However, the kids came in cleaned up, climbed in to bed, and fell fast asleep; I wasn’t too far behind. It was a great day and it would have been a million and six times better if grandma, grandpa, and Beth were here; but that will have to wait until later this summer. Making the Days Count, one summer day at a time.