Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back to School

What a weird month we are experiencing here in Virginia as we get ready for our trip to New, and then Old England. We had the first major earthquake in my lifetime (5.8 on the Richter scale - centered about 45 miles west of Studley and felt as far north as Canada) followed shortly thereafter by Hurricane Irene which dumped about 16 inches of rain on us in a couple of days. Trees came crashing down all around, taking power lines with them and denying us electric power (and therefore well water) for over a week. Because we have about 10 inches of topsoil over about 10 feet of dense clay tree roots grow out instead of down creating huge other-worldly root balls (well, more like root pancakes) when they topple. Fortunately only two (both heavy oaks - the pines just sway and take it) required we do anything about them. The others will remain where they fell and we'll let nature handle them for the time being. Let her clean up her own mess. We got the message though - get going on this trip before some tornado drops a house on us.

September 15, 2011 - Dulles Airport

We're on the way to London. Sort of. Rich and Lucy called early in the summer and asked if we'd like to share an apartment in London with them for a week. They had found a young woman in Bermondsey (SE London) who wanted to swap some house time in San Diego. We'd like - a lot. Having both spent time in England in previous lives we had talked about going back there and making some memories. There were reasonable fares from Boston so that fit beautifully. We planned on spending a short week in Rhode Island visiting the kids and grandkids. It had been way too long since we'd seen them.

Thursday - September 15, 2011 - Tiverton Schoolhouse No.1, Rhode Island

We pulled into the driveway of what would be our home for the next 5 days and were gobsmacked. The last time we had seen this building was in April of 2011 when Adam and Kristin had just purchased the partially renovated property that abutted the small farm they already owned. At that time it looked like a small cottage typical in style to the rest of the homes in this small Rhode Island community. Their vision was to return this little structure to it's roots (as the first one room schoolhouse in Tiverton) on the outside and remodel the inside with modern conveniences and appliances making it into a unique vacation lodging experience for seekers of the unconventional.

With two doors on the front (one for girls, one for boys), and a working bell in the cupola it looked very close to an early picture they had obtained. With this single picture to guide them, they rebuilt the front, built the cupola, and fashioned the sign to hang over the front doors. They had brought their vision to life.

1910 vs 2011

Inside was a pleasure. Remaining true to the time, the one large room combined a spacious living area with a very well appointed, very modern kitchen. Everywhere we looked there were signs of the thought and attention to detail that went into making this a very enjoyable (and livable) space. With two good sized bedrooms and a jacuzzi bath behind the kitchen they had worked magic with the space they had. We noted the welcoming chalkboard, fresh flowers, and bowl of fresh eggs (from the farm) and were touched by their thoughtfulness. Virginia forgotten, we were in a great frame of mind, and we were yet to see them and the grand-kids.

No sooner had we unpacked then the phone rang and a little voice asked where we were. "At school" I said. Within minutes (they live a mile down the road in Little Compton) we were surrounded by four of the most gorgeous kids you can imagine. Mom and Dad were looking pretty, pretty good as well.

There was so much to do and talk about and catch up on. They were visiting us in their schoolhouse where we were visiting them. It was cool and we chatted and hugged and loved being together.

Too nice a day to be indoors, we made our way across the property to the farm to check out the pen and pond Adam had built. The pen held the goats, the pond a collection of ducks. There were chickens all around. While Kristin weeded (she is always doing something) we sat on a bench and listened to the kids tell us stories about what had been going on in their lives for the previous 4 months, wondering how much they were making up as they went. Thus began a wonderful 4 days.

After all that traveling and the kid's long day at school and doing their farm chores we collectively decided a night out was in order. It would be dinner at one of those restaurants whose existence is a secret only the locals know: The Liberal Club (whatever that means), in Fall River. It is a family friendly restaurant that specializes in fresh seafood (a lot of it fried) and traditional Portuguese dishes. They don't take credit cards (but do have an ATM on premises) and the bar is a separate business from the restaurant, so we had two waitresses and two bills. We were in the mood for some mild confusion.

Between 2 and 3 of this set of grandkids are at the age where the children's menu no longer satisfies their more refined culinary desires. Their adult tastes however, (particularly when sea creatures are involved) come with a price tag that can stretch even the most liberal pocketbook. They almost understand that. Between the pleadings and negotiations (Vôvo and Kathy stayed out of it) it was resolved that some of the kids would share items on the adult menu. It worked out fine. With plenty of calamari and fish and chips to go around everyone was happy. In fact we laughed through most of the meal.

Jami is adorable, Alyssa is 13 glorified, and Megan is calm and accommodating (more on that later). Jonathan had us in stitches. He makes up stories and spins them so easily you begin to wonder if he believes them. The little smile tells us he doesn't. He can read now, and does so quite well. While perusing the menu he stumbled over the word chouriço, which is understandable. Phonetically it looks like "chur-rick-koe", the Portuguese pronounce it "sha-deesh" with the trailing h just a whisper. We told him that since he was half Portuguese he had the ability to pronounce it correctly. He got it the first try and proudly ordered Chouriço with mashed potatoes and carrots. The waitress smiled at this very non-Portuguese looking boy and paid him the compliment of not commenting on his pronunciation.

By the time we returned to the schoolhouse we were all full and tired from a rather exhausting day. It didn't occur to us then, but surprises us now that not one of the cherubs made note of the fact that we were staying, by ourselves, in a little house that had two additional beds. They must have been really tired or so full of chouriço that they couldn't think straight. They would not let that oversight happen again (much to our delight).

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