Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Grand Old Fourth with the Grandkids


This year we were lucky to have daughter Eleni and her two kids, Amalia, 5, and Nicolas, 2, come to stay with us in Grafton, MA from June 27 to July 5.    Although they live on the 14th floor of a New York high-rise and have Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art  a few blocks away, the simple pleasures of life in the country delighted them and Nick and I loved sharing an old-fashioned Fourth of July weekend.  Along with Eleni and kids on this visit came Emilio’s niece from Nicaragua, Maria Agustina, who is staying with them while she looks at colleges in the northeast.  Eleni’s husband, Emilio, couldn’t make it to Grafton because he was so busy launching his new coffee company Eleva, back in New York. 

It was very hot, and as soon as they arrived, everyone headed for the pool while Eleni Nikolaides (“Yiayia Nenny”) and Mommy inflated pool toys like Hank the Octopus. Papou Nick looked after grandson Nico on his kickboard.

 Every morning Amalia and Nico would set out carrots and other treats for the bunnies that seem to be reproducing like, um, rabbits all over our property.  The baby bunnies became so tame that Nico could almost pick them up, which had him screaming with excitement.

 The pair had several tea parties on the porch, and Nico was happy for hours playing with his Nemo water table on the lawn.

Friday night, June 30, the Worcester fireworks display in Christoforo Colombo Park on Shrewsbury Street was threatened by rain, but it stopped just long enough for the pyrotechnic display, which we watched from afar in the Beechwood Hotel’s parking lot.   Amalia counted with glee how many of the explosions included the three colors of our flag.

 The next day, Saturday, we went to a “Crab Festival” in the parking lot of the Sole Proprietor restaurant.  It was celebrating the 25th year that Buster the Crab will be enthroned atop the restaurant throughout the month of July to advertise the special crab menu.  

 The kids got free face-painting, balloon figures, and the chance to enter a Buster coloring contest (which would score them a free meal if they came in July with their parents.)   
From there we went to the nearby Worcester Art Museum, one of the best small museums in the country.  The kids admired the medieval chapel and colored in an exhibit of sacred art. (The museum has become very child-friendly.) 

 They loved lying on pillows to look up at the hanging art, with flashing lights and waving plastic cones that are inflated by fans.  That exhibit is called  “Reusable Universe” by Shih Chieh Huang.
 The little ones were captivated by the pink plastic flamingos gathered in the museum’s courtyard, where we ate lunch from the Museum Café.  (Did you know that the plastic flamingo –1957, as well as Tupperware –1946, both originated in Leominster, MA the “plastics capital of the world”?)
Sunday started with a tour of Westboro and Grafton, including a horse farm.  We stopped for an ice cream at Grafton’s Country Store on the picturesque Grafton Common.

After lunch we went to Worcester’s Ecotarium, a science and nature museum that currently offers an exhibit called “Did Dinosaurs Poop?”, combining two topics of riveting interest to Amalia and Nico.  They even got to dig for fossilized dinosaur poop in this sort of sandbox.  The stegosaurus you see outside is Siegfried, who lives at the Ecotarium but no, he doesn’t poop.

One highlight of the Ecotarium was the 12-minute ride on the miniature Explorer Express train around the park, but the biggest hit of all for Amalia and Nico was standing inside the hurricane simulator to feel the force of the winds.

On Monday, July 3, Amalia worked all afternoon making a patriotic farewell cake for her Papou Nick, who was about to leave for Greece where he will spend the rest of the summer.  When she stuck a candle in it, it  became an early cake for his late July birthday.

As soon as Papou left for the airport, the rest of us headed to the Grafton Common for the annual Fourth of July concert.  All of Grafton, young and old, gathered around the bandstand, most dressed in patriotic colors. 

 Amalia investigated the cannons, which are shot at the beginning and end of the concert, and the men dressed as Civil war soldiers.  Nico checked out the flavors of the Cones on the Common.
On Tuesday, July 4, we all headed to a celebration in Millbury’s Dean Park, where hundreds of people were strolling about in the heat, enjoying the music, barbecue and games.

 There were lots of different kind of inflatable challenges and bouncy houses, and Nico and  Amalia were determined to try every one, despite the long lines.  One inflatable was a long obstacle course, but Nico plunged in fearlessly, moving as fast as the big kids, climbing up walls and eventually coming out the other end at the same time as his sister.
 We were planning to go to another, more distant fireworks display that night, but after the heat and activity of the day, we were all too tired. We elected to stay home and just watch the Macy’s fireworks from New York on TV.

The next day we drove back to Manhattan.  It took five hours instead of the usual three, and Nico threw up in the car just as we reached the New York border, but nevertheless, we all agreed, it had been the best Fourth of July ever.