Charney/My Turn: Adventure’s our destination
There are two grandmas, three grandsons (ages six to ten) and a destination.
The GPS is programmed and the car is packed — change of clothes, water, cut-up fruit, hard-boiled eggs, melted peanut butter crackers (per order) and two rules. Rule One: No electronic gadgets. Rule Two: Listen to Grandma. The grandmas are ready and the boys can’t wait.
They head off for a day at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, a ski resort, turned adventure playground in the summer, nestled into the rolling Berkshire Mountains. It is a glorious day for outdoor adventures; there are gentle breezes and sun after a week of rain. They make good time, follow the advice of their electronic gadget and no one has to stop and pee. “Listen to Grandma,” directs their arrival as they buy tickets and settle their bundles on a picnic table beneath a shade umbrella.
Then it’s all about action.
There is so much to do. The children, of course, plan to do it all, starting with the alpine slide, but get waylaid at the Bungee Jump instead. Since it’s the beginning of the season, there are no crowds, no lines and the staff is eager for business. The boys are whisked up, strapped into a safety harness that attaches to tension wires allowing them to jump and soar miles (a slight exaggeration) above the trampolines. “Do you want to flip?” They do not.
Next, the Alpine Slide. Here a chair lift will take them up the mountain, and a small sled will send them down a winding track. Two of the boys meet the height requirements to drive their own sled. The 6-year-old must go with his Grandma. The boys want speed. The grandma not so much, who proceeds down the hill with full-throttle brakes. “It’s not a race,” she asserts when the boys boast about their fast finish, “but did you see all that beautiful scenery?” They did not.
By noon, they have jumped, careened, climbed and bounced and are ready to refuel. They enjoy a lunch set against green hills, the wide sky, zip lines and even more challenging rope climbs. A mountain biker makes his way up a path, a small girl performs back flips on the trampoline to the generous applause of her father. The older boys observe the Giant Swing, a supersonic apparatus that sends high-pitched squeals across the landscape. “Can we?” the boys want to know. So after lunch, the grandmas split up, one to the Giant Swing and one to Bungee Jump. The boys ascend a platform and again are harnessed into side-by-side seats, then lifted in an unseemly arc, up and higher yet, suddenly to be let go in a monumental dive. Not a squeal or protest from either, just a plea for “again” when the ride ends.
It is possible, it happens, that even in the fullness of one’s years, one can lose one’s senses as well as a grip on reality. Doesn’t this grandma get seasick in a rocking chair? So, it’s not clear what exactly motivates this grandma to mount the “Giant Swing” platform and ride alongside the grandchildren. However, before she can change her mind, the swing begins. She is torqued at a downward angle, unfathomable to any known anatomically feasible stomach physics, then released. Her insides head south, her brain heads straight to utter vertigo. She knows someone is screaming. She thinks it may even be herself when she hears her grandson howl, “Grandma is screaming.” And, “Don’t you love it, Grandma?”
Running directly to the bathroom, she is not on hand to help with the coaster ride. It is the last adventure of the day, but an adult must accompany one of the boys.
As it happens, one of the adults is MIA, while the other has already made clear her feelings about downhill speed. (The coasters boast a brilliant 28 mph velocity.) Nevertheless, this devoted grandma takes up her position in a sled and clutches the brakes to a standstill grind, thereby holding up the traffic as she snails to the end of the course. Her grandson sobs. But No Worry, it works out. A kind stranger offers the boy a second ride, a faster ride and no one is rude or blames anyone. They all depart Jiminy Peak triumphant.
On the car ride home, they play math games, category games, song games. And without their electronics, the children talk. “Are you ever scared?” “Do you ever cry?” “Are you ever happy?”
“This day was happy,” the three boys agree.
It was the best day of my life, “ one adds. So yes, the grandmas, one a tad green, the other a bit achy, approve of their adventure, made with two good rules. And, of course, the now famous declaration, “You should’ve heard Grandma scream!”
Ruth Charney lives in Greenfield.