"Camping Out" In Lillooet - Lauren Smiles, Rebecca Doesn'tMonday, March 24, 2008
As a boy in Buenos Aires my parents used to send me to the camp. Camp, was the word the British living in Argentina had borrowed directly from the Spanish campo as in campo abierto or open country. Right after the Christmas season, when Buenos Aires was its most sweltering, I was sent to some place either in the province of Córdoba, La Pampa or Corrientes. I remember that the one in Córdoba was called Glen Rest and boys and girls from the British and American community in Buenos Aires were shipped there for a couple of weeks to rough it.
According to Rosemary going to Lillooet to visit Ale, our eldest daughter, with our granddaughters, Lauren and Rebecca, is just like camping. But this is a different camping from the one in BA. It is a rougher kind even though my daughter has amenities that Glen Rest did not have, like central air conditioning. This is so even though the house is not quite one in my opinion and closer to a well appointed shack! Rosemary brings everything we might need, even our own large skillet frying pan so I can make the breakfast pancakes. Watching Ale slash and burn the grass on her property (with the accompanying smell) and her insistence in lighting a fire outside in the evening so that Lauren and Rebecca could cook marshmallows is what made it seem like we were camping. And very pleasant it was!
During our two-night stay over the Easter weekend Lauren and Rebecca planted daffodils and they went fishing but caught nothing. They quickly lost interest in flying a kite (I could barely keep it aloft as it seemed to have stall characteristics that made it suicidal) and it was finally "eaten" by one of Ale's fruit trees. I had to constantly cajole (or force) Rebecca from playing computer games. Lauren was much more willing to follow Ale around outside in the sunny but cold weather. And we cooked a lot, it seems.
I almost did not notice that when Ale's 96 year-old friend Margaret arrived, on Saturday evening, with her daughter Lenora for barbecued ham stakes, Rosemary's scalloped potatoes and Rebecca's salad that she (Margaret) noted that both girls had grown from last fall. Once they had gone we sat to watch the Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek and William Hurt version of children's author Natalie Babbitt's novel, Tuck Everlasting. Ale, who had not connected her TV to any cable or satellite dish since she arrived in Lillooet last July, had depended on a DVD player to watch movies. It had finally given up the ghost and we had arrived with a new player. I had carefully chosen Tuck Everlasting and the Walt Disney Treasure Island to give us some family amusement but with a challenge. It was interesting that the challenge happened even though both films were Walt Disney. We all noted that Robert Newton's Long John Silver was a full-fledged complex villain. He was neither all good nor all bad. In the end Silver escapes with the treasure. This was most un-Disney most un-Hollywood. When I saw the film in 1951 I was 9. I have a feeling that Rebecca understood the villain's very human behaviour much better than I ever did. In fact I am sure that I never caught on until this second time around.
Rebecca had already seen Tuck Everlasting about a gentle family who after drinking from a spring under an oak tree had all stayed the same age for 100 years and were "doomed" not to die. It was most un-childlike that Rebecca refused to tell us about the plot twists or the ending even when we asked!
But it was the never-aging family Tuck that shocked me into remembering how Margaret had noted that the children had grown. Earlier that day, in the morning I had told Rebecca to grab Lilly, her stuffed cat and to pose for me by a willow tree and under and apricot tree. It felt different. Indeed both Rebecca and Lauren had grown. Paradoxically Lauren who used to be very difficult and fussy (about what she ate, for example) was easygoing and happy, while Rebecca who had always been easygoing and happy was more morose and even became angry when Ale's internet stopped working.
I told her to think about being a child who was becoming a teenager who was currently caught in a bittersweet transition. She seemed to understand and looked at the camera sadly. But when Rebecca asked to take a picture of Lauren (Rebecca had to bring a milk box to stand on so she could look through my large camera) Lauren, the child that she is, saved the day with a pleasant smile.
In a scene in Tuck Everlasting Angus Tuck (William Hurt) takes out Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) out in a rowboat to try to explain his and his family's fate. He explains, "We're like rocks stuck a the side of the stream," as all around them leaves rattle in the wind and autumn approaches. I must take Tuck's advice and glory at my own mortality (unlike his immortality) and enjoy every instant as my granddaughters grow up and change.