We left the Outer Banks on a Friday, unpacked the car, repacked the car the next day, and then began the drive up to Michigan. This year, we were staying for about a week near Caseville. When we arrived, it was a bit chillier than we were used to in Virginia and North Carolina.
There were other adjustments to make as well in transitioning from one vacation to the next. It was clear from the start that there would be a higher level of organization than at our Outer Banks trip. where, as my brother Mark pointed out, the high water mark of coordinated activity was the one time we got almost everyone to go out on the deck at the same time for a family picture. At Caseville, an Olympics competition had been set up where virtually everything was organized for us, from the games we would play to the rules we would follow to the teams we would be on.
In keeping with the totalitarian theme, one of the Olympics teams chose as its name the Superior Seven.
Aside from their fascist leanings, there were a number of other questions about this team. Were they, in fact, superior? If so, given that there was an extremely limited pool of coordinated family members to draw from, how had so many of them ended up on the same team? Could other teams even compete with the Superior Seven?
Other questions surrounded the roles of the team captains. Four of the older children were voluntold they were team leaders, but they had apparently been given the same executive authority over their teams as Queen Elizabeth II has over British policy. Even the few responsibilities the captains were given may have been overly ambitious, leading to still more questions. Why did the Olympics Organizers expect the captains, teens and preteens, to read and reply to emails, a form of communication about as familiar to them as a Western Union telegram? Why were these preteens and teens trusted to find the time to choose team colors and slogans when everyone knows that the teen/preteen conception of time is so warped that they will say things like “I didn’t have time today” when “today” was spent sleeping for 12 hours and watching Tik Toks for another 8? There were many, many questions.
All of the detailed planning to create the perfect Olympics was undermined by one uncontrollable factor: the weather. On gameday the temperature was in the 60’s, and the strong winds off the lake made it seem even colder.
However, the rule-bound Olympics machine ground inexorably onward, refusing to be turned from its course, and the games would go on as scheduled. The momentum of the event could not be stopped, either because people were afraid that this would disrupt the careful planning or because people could not tolerate the thought that the careful planning might continue for additional days. Taking shelter in a local pavilion, we played the first game according to the carefully typed rule sheet.
Tragically, some of the events had to be cancelled, their rules taken from their sheet protector and ritually recycled. “Frisbee Balancing” was such an event, as it was decided that the combination of the high winds and lack of participant coordination made this event impracticable. Somehow, the “Frozen T-shirt Race” made the cut.
In between events, scores were reported and posted to THE OFFICAL SCOREBOARD.
In the end, the well-oiled machine of Caseville Summer Olympics had somehow failed to produce a clear winner. Since we couldn’t possibly have such a high-stakes event result in a tie, there was only one solution: Rock, Paper, Scissors. It as a time for high strategy.
Without laminated rules to guide us during this event, law and order completely broke down, with some people playing an alternate “Paper, Rock, Scissors” game, some people fruitlessly yelling for order, and some people choosing this moment as the perfect time to use the restroom. Mercifully, a winner of the event was declared anyway, but the chaos foreshadowed what would follow when family pictures were taken after the games. After we had set up the camera, herded the children into position, and got everyone to look in the right direction, we realized one adult had gone rogue, failing to join the group. Fortunately, the photo shoot was characterized by the same displays of tolerance and joy as the Olympic games.
Another event on the Caseville calendar was “Face Mask Decorating,” because part of the new normal of the Covid world is that we need a primary mask, a mask for when we forget the primary mask, a mask for when we leave the backup mask at home with the primary mask, and at least four times that number of masks for each child in the household. The mask production proceeded without typed, laminated rules, so we were flying blind; there was no telling if the mask production would follow the guidelines of a civilized society.
Even without explicit direction, most of the decorated masks produced could, in fact, functionally serve as masks.
Maybe mask decorating is so easy that it can’t be screwed up.
Sometimes, the absence of prescheduled activities led to unexpected creativity. One night, the kids broke out in a spontaneous ‘Hamilton’ singalong.
The impromptu performance was so exuberant that we were in danger of violating another rule: the local noise ordinance. We herded the children into one of the cabins where the performance could continue.
Without clear rules, some people seemed confused about whether or not this was still part of the facemask activity.
One of the final scheduled Caseville events was our now-annual canoe/kayak trip through Port Crescent State Park. Since Laura and I had recently purchased a pandemic canoe for use back home, I therefore had recent experience with disruptive canoe sailors, so I agreed to take the youngest children in a canoe.
The next two oldest children could then be isolated in their own double kayak.
That made all of the adults happy.
The trip took us down the Pinnebog River in perfect weather, sunny but not hot. The river ends with a sandbar that separates the river from Lake Huron.
The sandar formed a perfect beach, with water so shallow that it was much warmer than either the river or the parts of the lake closer to Caseville. There was only one problem…