Eva’s Public Reading of Her Non-Fiction Piece

I know you won’t be able to hear the words Eva (my dear 13-year-old granddaughter) is speaking in the above video. It was “captured” second or third hand from a computer mic. Sorry about that. (But don’t worry, the words she’s reading appear in print below.)

Despite its problems, I include the video just to give an idea of the way Eva looked making her presentation at the final event of her three-week writing workshop at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Camp. Isn’t she lovely?

Students picked their favorite piece (poetry, nonfiction, fiction, drama) and read it aloud to their colleagues and teachers. (If you look hard down in the right hand corner of the video, you’ll see my bride, Peggy (Eva’s proud grandma), looking on. Peggy is sitting next to her college roommate (Eva’s ‘Aunt Micki’) from so many years ago at Central Michigan University.

In any case, I share below the text of Eva’s nonfiction work about her none-too-happy experiences at sleepaway camp in Maine. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I heard the words without the recording’s distortions.

Summer Camp Reflection

When I was eight, my parents shipped me off to seven weeks of sleepaway camp in Poland, Maine. I hated it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner consisted of cubes of uncooked tofu. Cubes. I only had one friend. For privacy purposes, let’s call her Hazel. She was a good friend. She hugged me when I cried, she accompanied me to the activities I hated. When she met me, I was shy and sad. Over the course of five years, however, I changed. But she didn’t leave me. She stayed with me for each horrible year of sleepaway camp. I wrote her parents letters for her because she didn’t like writing them, and she gave me her dessert so that I had more than just tofu. We ate candy in secret, sitting on a hidden rock by the cold, murky lake, even though we weren’t allowed. We were good friends. But I wasn’t happy at that camp. I felt sad every day. And so, after five years, I made the decision to switch camps. And here I am. But I left Hazel alone. She didn’t love the camp. I left Hazel alone. She stayed with me even when I couldn’t stop crying. 

“It’s okay, Eva. Only 50 days left.” She would tell me.

I would take a shaky breath, and we would skip our activity and go to our special rock to eat candy and talk about everything we wish we could be doing. “Thank you.” I told her.

“That’s what friends are for!” She would always say.

But I left Hazel by herself. Now, she sits alone on that rock, watching the lake hit the shoreline, the water spraying her with white foam, eating candy and humming a tune to herself. Or maybe she found a new Eva. One she likes better. Maybe she doesn’t miss me the way I miss her. Maybe the new Eva doesn’t cry as much. Or maybe the new Eva would rather go to Marksmanship than read a book. Or maybe the new Eva doesn’t exist.

My Granddaughter’s First Sonnett

Eva with her proud grandparents

My 13-year-old granddaughter, Eva, has spent the first three weeks of her summer vacation at the famous arts camp in Interlochen, Michigan. She’s really enjoying her high-level introduction to writing poetry, autobiographical reflections, and fiction.

On this blog, I’ve written about Eva and our relationship several times — most revealingly, I think, in a poem I wrote to her on her 13th birthday.

I’m so proud of this young woman and cherish the conversations we share as we frequently take our exercise in morning walks. We always end up sitting by the Saugatuck River consuming treats from Starbucks.

In any case, Eva is a writer with ambitions to eventually pursue a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Princeton (her father’s university) or Wellesley (her mother’s alma mater).

However, at this point, she’s just getting started though the instruction she’s received at Pierrepont School here in Westport, CT has been excellent. It has prepared her well for Interlochen.

During my nearly 14-year conversation with my granddaughter, Eva has evidenced more interest in creative prose rather than poetry. “Poetry’s just not my thing,” she’s told me more than once.

So, you can imagine my surprise when during the first week at Interlochen she waxed enthusiastic about her poetry classes. She shared with me her first sonnet. Its topic was to be some personal experience. Eva chose to write about witnessing the birth of her 4th brother, Sebastian 3 years ago.

Here’s what she wrote:

Sonnet:
I saw a new life come into the world

It was a magical experience;

A small red baby with his fingers curled,

His vision blurred and brain delirious.

It made my eyes shine with watery tears

And my body feel a sense of wonder;

His skin is as soft as small rabbit ears,

I whisper to my mom how I love her,

And how proud I am of her good effort.

She smiles at me and says it’s not the first

Also babies always make her head hurt;

But after the baby had bathed and nursed,

And to our fam’ly friends we said farewell

My mom let me name him, Sebastian Nels.

Over the next few days, I’ll share two other pieces Eva has written at Interlochen — one a personal reflection, the other a work of fiction.

I Join the Ys Men’s Club in Westport

This morning I attended my first meeting of Westport’s Ys Men’s Club here in our new hometown of Westport CT. I didn’t know what to expect. I was imagining a group of 10-20 men meeting in a church basement.

I was right about the basement part. We met in the Weston Congregational Church equivalent.

But my numbers were way off.

I discovered that the Ys Men’s Club here was founded 42 years ago. It is highly organized, and now has a local membership of over 400 seniors like me. About 250 were present for the meeting this morning.

It was standing room only because the guest speaker was Chris Brubeck, one of Dave Brubeck’s four sons. And, as I’ll tell you below, his presentation was delightful.

The meeting started at 9:00 with coffee and doughnuts. As I was consuming my decaf and half a chocolate doughnut, I met several members, including the membership chair of the club. One man I met told me that 15 years ago, he and his wife had made the same move as Peggy and I have just made. They moved to Westport to live next to their grandchildren and grow up with them. He said it was the best decision they had ever made. He assured me that it would be the same for me.

Everyone else I met had one first question: “What are you interested in?”

I had looked at the long list of club activities. And from them I selected golf and discussion current events as strong interests. I said I was moderately interested in a book club – depending on what the group might be reading.

When I informed the membership chair of my current events interests, he soon had me talking with the convener of that group. I was told it meets Mondays from 8:45-10:00 at a nearby seniors’ center. Next week, the convener said, they’ll be discussing Thomas Friedman’s NYT column on the Yellow Vest Movement in France.

That seemed especially providential, since I had just returned (last weekend) from France, where I devoted a lot of time to reading about and tracking down Gilet Jaunes.  In fact, on my return, I published an article on them here on my blog, on OpEdNews, and as my monthly column in the Lexington Herald-Leader. So, I’m really looking forward to Monday’s meeting, where I hope to share some of those just-published thoughts. That will be a good way of breaking into this Ys Men’s club.

As for Chris Brubeck . . . He regaled us with stories of his father Dave, their family, and Chris’ own career.

He played a couple of base trombone solos for us and showed us the amazingly low notes he could hit with his instrument. Chris grew up in nearby Wilton. He studied with jazz and classical masters – including at Interlochen MI, the great summer music camp where Peggy and I had sent two of our children, and where last summer we saw the Glen Miller band and the Beachboys. The summer before last, we attended a Diana Ross concert there as well.

The highlight of Chris Brubeck’s presentation was a couple of performance tapes he shared with us.  One was of a piece he had written for three violins – with each violinist playing a different music style. That was just amazing for a Suzuki parent like me to watch.

The best one, however, was of the celebration of his father’s career at the Kennedy Center just before Dave Brubeck died at the age of 91. President Obama and Michelle were in attendance. Chris told us that in the run-up to the event, Dave had asked that his four sons (each, of course, a great jazz musician in his own right) might play together at the event. Chris said that Dave (that’s how he referred to his father) was crestfallen when he was told “No, we just can’t do that.”

Well, those who made that refusal had other plans. They wanted to delight and surprise the Great Man. So, on the night in question, the Army jazz band, along with Herbie Hancock and other jazz stars did a stunning performance of “Take Five.” One after another three groups took up the theme. Then, as the piece de resistance, Brubeck’s sons were introduced. The old man was dumbfounded. When the curtain went up on his sons, he blurted out in surprise “Son of a b__tch!” Luckily, he was un-miked. But watching his lips form the words was both hilarious and charming.

The prospect of working and playing with Westport’s Ys Men is an unexpected bonus on top of the wonder of growing up here with my grandchildren.