Survival Notes from a Family Reunion
By Lynn Schnurnberger
Couples face many challenges when they're on vacation. In this monthly column, Two For The Road, best-selling author Lynn Schnurnberger reveals how she and her husband cope with these inevitable conflicts.
When I travel, I like my creature comforts. Still I’ve been willing to do without fluffy comforters or room service for the thrill of exploring the Amazonian rainforest. But when we’d been married for less than a year and my husband Martin told me he wanted to go camping—with his family and about eighty people from Granby, the small Connecticut town he grew up in— I balked.
“It’s a tradition, we go every July 4th,” Martin said, as he stuffed the car with tents, sleeping bags, an inflatable canoe and three cans of bug spray. Four hours later, we pulled off of a small, windy dirt road connecting the town of Newfane, Vermont to the “campsite”—five rustic cabins for the elders of the group to sleep in, a main rec room, and an outhouse with two toilets and one shower stall.
“I’ll try to position our tent near the bathroom…or maybe not,” Martin said, nervously, as we stepped around a gazillion tent poles all set up within inches of each other and dozens of children who scampered underfoot.
There’s no cell phone reception (not even a landline for emergencies) at the campsite; no beautiful view or sense of peaceful wilderness— just an overcrowded piece of land filled with screaming babies and an endless stream of people whose names it would take me years to learn. (After fifteen summers, I’m still not sure I know them all.) Still there is skit night, biking and hiking through the Green Mountains, tubing and swimming in the nearby reservoir, communal feasts where people outdo themselves, and an extraordinary sense of camaraderie. At it’s most overwhelming, “Camp Granby,” (as the revelers have dubbed it), feels like a three day bar mitzvah on a boat—there’s always someone hugging or talking to you and there’s no escape. But at its best—which is about 90% of the time— Camp Granby is a fantastic family reunion of people who fly in from all over the country to see each other each year, and who welcome strangers warmly. And, who are willing to go exploring.
Less than an hour away, are the Norman Rockwell and Bennington museums, not to mention the Manchester Shopping Outlets (discount Armani, anyone?) The kids are always up for a visit to the waterslide and go-carts in Bromley and Mary Meyers teddy bear store is a local favorite. Every Sunday there’s a huge flea market in Newfane, and although the treasures run toward kitchen wares and kitch, you can always find something that you “have to have,” like the dollar kaleidoscopes I gave out to my nieces and nephews last year.
Still, I really never learned to enjoy sleeping on hard ground. Which is why, about five years ago, I started booking a room at the Inn—the Four Columns Inn, just back down in the road in Newfane—where I enjoy a luxurious four-poster bed, scrumptious breakfasts, and depending on how much I’m willing to splurge, a room with a fireplace and/or a soaking tub. Refreshed in the morning, I’m ready to take on lunch duty, a ping pong match, or to wrap myself in an American flag for the annual July 4th photo. All it takes is a peaceful night’s rest--and a door that locks--to make me a Happy Camper.
Lynn Schnurnberger is the author and co-author of five books, including the best-selling novels, The Botox Diaries and Mine Are Spectacular. Her most recent book, The Best Laid Plans was just published in January 2011.