Mutt’s Nuts is in full swing. It’s a family tradition. A little crazier tradition than some families have. Okay, maybe a lot crazier – but we do have a grand time and create a lot of great memories. You might be wondering about the name for this event – it’s a modification of a British expression that means something very special. But since most of us are a little nuts and there are always dogs in the mix, perhaps it’s appropriate for other reasons as well. This year’s crew includes my sister and my sister-in-law and me, all our kids and their kids for a total of 24 adults, 10 kids and 4 dogs. There are 14 tents erected for sleeping quarters, and it looks like a Boy Scout camporee.
We own a very small island in a relatively small lake in New Hampshire. When I talk about “our island” it may sound grand, but don’t start envisioning the Kennedy Compound on Martha’s Vineyard or other fancy family summer homes of the rich and famous. More than fifty years ago, my dad built a platform for the tent that housed five of us, and that eventually became the floor for a cabin – 14 feet on a side. It was meant to be temporary until Dad got the real place built on the bluff overlooking the lake, but then he got his first New Hampshire real estate tax bill and decided 196 square feet was plenty big enough. Over the years he added a tiny kitchen and a screen porch along the front side. Also over the years, the building codes changed and now there is no place on this small island far enough from the water to get a permit to build on, so we are grandfathered in for a grand total, including porch, of 423 square feet of space. Obviously we can’t all sleep in our grand little cabin so everyone has their own tent and the cabin has become the clubhouse. Electricity is our only modern improvement. There’s no running water, no heat or AC, no phone, no TV and no internet. We do have a shower stall, but that includes remembering to fill the solar bag and setting it in the sun well in advance of when you want to take your warm shower.
Some of the Mutt’s Nuts activities are what you might guess: swimming, sailing, kayaking, campfires, cookouts and dining al fresco. But some things defy explanation – like adults dressing up as fairies to douse themselves with ice water in a charity challenge. The kids love the freedom to traipse around the island pursuing whatever activity interests them at the moment. Card games are always being pulled together, but more often we just enjoy the peace and beauty of this place and the chance to chat with relatives we like a lot but don’t see nearly often enough. Another ongoing tradition is the building of fairy houses. Sometimes just simple creations built of sticks, moss, pine needles and stones. Other times elaborate, sometimes floating, often whimsical.
Every year there is something special to celebrate: birthdays, wedding showers, baby showers etc. And then there are the holidays that usually fall during the year when we can’t be together. One year it was Halloween – all the kids dressed up and went trick-or-treating from one tent to another. This year it’s Easter –with eggs hidden all over the island and next year we’ve already planned to celebrate Valentine’s day. The kids will get to decorate their own mailbox and erect it outside their tent. Cards and letters can be delivered all week.
Every family gets to fix one main meal, which means the rest of the week all you have to do is come when dinner is served. This morning I fixed made-from-scratch Belgian waffles with homemade blueberry sauce (I picked the berries too.) Tomorrow my daughter will be making crepes for breakfast served up with a variety of fruits, cream, Nutella and other fixin’s. Someone always seems to be in the kitchen baking cookies. Eating well (too well, to be more accurate) is a given.
At the end of each day a campfire gets started and the s’mores kit comes out. Laughter and good times around the campfire – stories of years gone by and sometimes spooky stories get told. We’ve even had musical instruments and sing-alongs. Not rushing about to take in as many sights as possible has its advantages. By the time our week is over, everyone feels rested up and ready to go back to work, but no one really wants to leave at all. Next year seems so very far away.