Gray Matters — A little south of 'up country'

By Tanya Mitchell
Source: File image

This past week during my vacation, I spent a lot of time with my son enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer here in Midcoast Maine. Throughout the week, I was reminded of all the time I spent in the woods of northern Maine when I was a child and how much my family looked forward to practically living in our old tow-behind camper for most of the summer.

Due to a few twists of fate this year, my family was unable to make the trek north — "up country" as my dad likes to call it — but being an outdoor kind of folk, we didn't waste any time breaking in the pop-up camper that we acquired earlier this year.

My son was so excited to stay in the camper, despite the fact that we were just a few short miles from home this year. And after a few minutes spent setting up camp and firing up the grill, it didn't matter much to me, either. There's something about sitting outside in my favorite lawn chair, sipping a cold beverage while hearing a fine lineup of classic rock favorites, compliments of a 30-year-old shop radio, that makes the camping experience feel complete.

It was that very same radio that played the songs that became the soundtrack of my youth during the countless summer days we spent up country. Tracks from artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, John Mellencamp (or John Cougar, or John Cougar Mellencamp, depending on the era) would always serve as the background music for days filled with fishing in the river or lounging around the campfire, and during our seemingly endless card games played at the cramped kitchen table when rain swept the campsite.

This past week, as my little boy and I hung around our close-to-home campsite, I found myself switching on that old radio as if it were second nature. As if on cue, the local radio station I tuned in to started playing "Green River."

As the evening wore on and the sweltering sun sank lower in the sky, out came the deck of cards, and the boy and I began what started as an innocent game of Go Fish and ended with a cutthroat game of War. Maybe winning isn't everything, but losing smarts a little bit more when you routinely get your butt handed to you by a 7-year-old. When my son did his little victory dance following his third win of the evening, it totally reminded me of my younger brother, who used to do the same thing every time he beat me at cards (or anything else, for that matter).

But you know, looking out the window and seeing a smattering of fireflies flickering in the nearby bushes takes the edge off any loss, especially when the sight is coupled with the scent of burgers and dogs cooking on the grill.

Even though I wasn't able to take my son up country this summer, he seemed to enjoy the activities and experiences that became tradition for my family when I was growing up.

That said, I'll consider this trip a practice run for next summer, at which time I hope to offer my son the full up-country experience.