Whenever I arrived at my grandparent’s house on a Sunday morning, as a child, I could be sure to find my grandfather sitting in his armchair listening to classical music. A father of seven, that only allowed his children 4 squares of toilet paper when they went to the bathroom and could be frequently found hiding twinkies on the highest shelf of his closet, had a surprising affinity for Beethoven and Bach.
As the 7 children grew, my grandfather was able to afford a timeshare in the Berkshires where he could enjoy live classical music at Tanglewood. Tanglewood is an outdoor amphitheater that the Boston Symphony calls home during the summer months.
Masochists with no regard for body temperature Classical music enthusiasts come in droves to sit on the lawns and listen to the music every summer weekend.
You may be familiar with this place, if you watch The Real Housewives of NYC. One housewife, Dorinda, famously had the nerve to invite the other housewives for a weekend in the Berkshires…They all fought – hired companies to deliver fans and air conditioning units and ultimately ended up on a canoe in a lake, drunk and smashing bottles of wine over each other’s heads…
Every few summers, my mother would announce that we were going to Tanglewood. My brother and I would have to accept that one glorious summer weekend, that we could otherwise spend at the beach with our friends, cooling our bodies in the Long Island Sound – would now be spent baking on a hot blanket in a patch of grass in the middle of nowhere, listening to Mozart.
Picture “Kellerman’s from Dirty Dancing” without Patrick Swazye, and instead of listening to “I Had the Time of My Life” you are listening to Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
Also instead of feeling as though you are having “The Time of Your Life” you will find yourself dying a slow death due to perspiration, bug bites and boredom.
Tanglewood can be found in the middle of the wilderness where no phone will ever have service and houses are ten-fifteen minutes apart. While some people might find a way to have fun with trees and logs…I find it very unsettling.
I never like any summer activity that doesn’t directly involve the sun and some sort of large body of water. I made that distinction at a very young age.
I don’t like bugs.
I don’t like nature.
I don’t like sweating my balls off…and frankly…
I don’t like Beethoven.
So when my parents brought me and my brother in the sweltering heat to Tanglewood, I would inevitably be in what could be best described as “a bad mood.” Boring activities in the wilderness have made my skin crawl since I was born. I am not using this term loosely, my skin actually crawls. I am itchy, and claustrophobic and short of breath. I am prone to bursting into tears for no good reason when forced into these type of environments.
By the time I was a teenager, through a series of unfortunate events, involving my grandfather passing away and my grandmother marrying a quiet, uncultured old man named Wally, we were suddenly free of the Tanglewood excursions. Grandma would still go with Wally but since we all disliked his presence we were free to opt out of Tanglewood.
My grandmother and Wally have since passed, and this August marked 20 years since my grandfather’s death and my mother’s family decided this would be a great time to celebrate his life – by going back to Tanglewood.
To appease my mother, I agreed to stay in a rented farmhouse with no less that 30 family members and attend the John Williams’ night at Tanglewood. Because John Williams is most famous for the score of Star Wars – I was hopeful that maybe my children’s first endeavor at the horrific Tanglewood grounds would be somewhat acceptable.
As we drove closer to our destination on Saturday, my phone stopped working. Our GPS stopped working as well, as we drove closer and closer to the hills from the Sound of Music. I felt my throat start to close and my bad mood started to escalate.
When we arrived to our latest residence, a huge farmhouse, I was happy to find there was air conditioning and my uncle had rented a house with a pool down the road. Things were looking up.
The kids didn’t even seem to notice that they were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forests.
After some pool time, all 32 of us attempted to shower and get ready to head to the concert. My mother, always the generous eldest sibling, volunteered to make dinner for all 32 people. This basically meant that myself, husband, brother and father were preparing food until it was time to leave and had no time to shower. Because the heat index was 105 degrees, I didn’t even care as I wearily shoved my sweaty body into the back of someone’s car surrounded by blankets, coolers and food trays.
When we arrived at the venue it only took one hour! in the sweltering heat to park our cars, find a spot under a tree, set up tables, chairs and blankets, all while trying not to murder each other. Several people were lost, trying to find our spot. Some of us found our arms coming out of the sockets, while we lugged coolers filled with 50 bottles of wine and beer for miles, while our family members waited leisurely under a tree. We finally set up everything and began to calm down a bit, fanning ourselves while we ate cheese and drank wine waiting for the concert to start.
In the middle of 10 million trillion people….
In the blazing heat…
After some food and wine and merriment – the sun set and the classical music began…
I grabbed a chair and found a little corner under a tree to settle in for 2 hours of
torture Star Wars music!
What happened next in my mind…
After a mere 2 classical tunes…thunder and lightening began and dark clouds threatened to pour over us.
Mr. Gaga and my father frantically began packing up coolers and chairs in an attempt to beat the storm while we all gazed at the symphony.
In what seemed like a split second – our dreamy concert setting turned into a scene from Twister. We all ran screaming for our lives out of the open field of death as lightning bolts crashed around us and rain poured down onto our hot bodies.
Imagine these people – all suddenly getting up and running for their lives…
in the dark.
Thinking that Mr. Gaga had run ahead with my children to our truck – I ran blindly, (losing my $2oo Ray Bans in the meantime) jumping through muddy puddles in a soaking rain. I found myself in a parking lot alone, unable to locate my vehicle with lightning crashing down around me dangerously.
Thankfully – Mr. Gaga ran to the lot and found me and threw me into the truck. “I am going to get the kids!” he yelled as he ran into the wet darkness with lightening crashing around him.
Fast forward….after 30 steamy minutes alone in the hot car – I realized that I would die in the truck. I found a box of Tic Tacs and enjoyed them as my final meal and resigned myself to a hot sad death in an SUV at Tanglewood.
Mercifully, after an hour of Hail Mary’s – Mr. Gaga found my children and parents and we all piled into the truck and headed out of the lot.
All of our other family members were accounted for and we couldn’t wait to get to our farmhouse, 20 minutes away, to peel off our wet clothes and relax.
When we arrived “home” – 20 family members had already arrived before us.
When we entered into the house, my cousins and aunts and uncles were busily lighting candles in the hot stuffy, dark house….because of course…there was no power.
“But don’t worry!! We will play charades!” they said cheerily as they ripped up little pieces of paper and threw them into a hat.
I wanted to die. Or cry. Or both.
At the very least I needed to wring out my underwear and wash my face and pee.
But none of that would be happening.
The house had a well. With no electricity – there was no water.
That means no washing and no flushing.
Was my grandfather really testing us???
After playing charades and eating chips until 12:30 – the power finally came on. By then, we had all resigned to being dirty and slimy in our beds. I crawled onto an air mattress on the floor still in my wet clothes and dosed off.
In the morning – we woke up and packed our car and peeled out.
I had tried something outside of my comfort zone – and it was time to go back to where I belonged.
I literally ran onto the beach and ran into the water and did a happy dance.
I love you beach – I will never leave you again.
Or at least for another 20 years…..
FAMILY FIRST!!! XO, LADY GOO GOO GAGA