Once Upon a Time I Spent July 4th in the Country with my Family

Spirit Trail Retreat

For the 4th of July weekend, 2003, we rented this house near the Shenandoah River. It sits at the end of a long, dirt driveway that turns off a long, dead end dirt road 20 miles or so north of New Market, Va.

The house has been wonderfully restored and speaks of another and in many ways more gentle era.

We spent a lot of time on the front porch.

The Walking Wounded

Brian and I were joined by son Dan (baseball cap), grandson Shane (behind me), granddaughter Erica (crutches), and Michelle (with arm in sling).

For the record, Dan had been hiking along a local Upstate New York stream with Michelle, Shane and Erica. Michelle slipped on a rock and dislocated her shoulder in landing.

A few days later, they were back at the same stream. This time, Erica was swinging on a rope over the water, lost her grip, and broke her leg in landing.

Caitlin, Tim and Ute

Caitlin and Tim arrived just in time for dinner Friday, sporting their new wheels.

Here Tim and beaming Caitlin stand proudly beside their new SUV. Ah, don't the three of them look smart together.

(The big Buick in the background with the open trunk is ours. Don't you agree it looks properly grandparental?)

The Back Yard

The back year is huge. Actually it goes on for 60 acres or so, and this is where we spent a lot of time.

We had dinner here on Friday and Saturday, prepared by grill master Dan. Most of us had breakfast here as well. 

(The outhouse is for show. However, with eight people sharing two bathrooms,  there were probably times when someone might have wished it was operational.

Michelle After Dinner

Cookouts were prolonged events, as meal at family gatherings often are. We ate dinner both nights on the back lawn, while breakfasts were consumed at each person's leisure on the front porch, dining room table, or on the back lawn.

Here Michelle chats while someone from the empty chair is getting refills.

Looking at her expression, one can almost hear her exclaiming, "Life is good!"


Dan and Shane sit with their empty plates before them. 

Shane ponders the possibility of having a 3rd helping --a not entirely unknown event as any parent of a 12-year-old will recognize.

The question is less one of desire than space.

The Party Decorator

Erica is sitting on the front porch, which she decorated.

We had a triple birthday party, for Caitlin (June 29), Michelle (July 13), and Brian (July 23). (We'll add a link here to Dan's birthday photos when he posts them.)

(Next week Erica is coming back to see us in Washington. It will be her first solo flight and we are all looking forward to it.)

Watchful Tim

Master chef Tim --  who, thanks to Sgt. Dan's handiwork, escaped grilling duties probably for the first time in his entire history with the Larkin family -- sits watchfully after dinner one evening.


The Party 

After dinner on Sunday evening, we had a triple birthday party on the front porch.

It was complete with streamers all over the porch, noise makers for everyone, and a cake and candle for each of the celebrants to blow out.

Caitlin is shown here getting ready to blow a party noise-maker. Tim is being patient with the raucousness, while Michelle is smiling at other noise makers. It was a fun time.