The rain and flooding came, but this family stayed 

  • The owner of a black Chevy Camaro abandoned the car and called his insurance company after Jellystone campground in New Hampton flooded. Courtesy of Priscilla Piscopo

  • Natalia Aponte, 7, holds on to her great grandmother, Fabiola Lena, at their Jellystone campsite in New Hampton. The family moved from a flooded area Sunday to safer ground. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Jeremy Pittsley walks under the yellow tape where the water came up to near his fifth wheel camper at the Jellystone campground in New Hampton, Monday July 3, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • An abandoned campsite and the black Camaro that was in the path of the flood waters at the Jellystone campground in New Hampton on Monday, July 3, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jeremy Pittsley stands in the flooded area of the Jellystone campground and points to where he had to put his camper to escape rising waters. The Pemigewasset River is in the background with a dock that had washed up on shore.

Monitor staff
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Mother Nature tried to spoil their family vacation.

She rained on them, threw water at them, forced them to pack their gear and move to higher ground.

In the end, though, the hearty crew I met, from the Massachusetts towns of Billerica and Tewksbury and the city of Haverhill, thumbed their noses at the old, proud woman and told her to rain on someone else’s parade.

This family had a proud woman of their own.

“We packed everything just in case,” said Fabiola Lena, a great-grandmother from Tewksbury with more spunk than a four-star general. “We packed it and moved it over there. But this keeps us happy, so we moved everything back again.”

They moved it all back to their three camp sites at Jellystone Park in New Hampton, following the flooding that hit the state Saturday night, mostly in Grafton County.

They moved back their campers and their canopies, their grills and their tents, their screen houses and their hearts, to the same spots they’ve claimed every year for close to three decades.

They go to Jellystone in May for Memorial Day weekend, then the week of the Fourth of July, then Labor Day weekend, then Columbus Day weekend.

Every year.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day. Or not, because this family ain’t leaving, ma’am.

“I’m 24 years old, and I’ve been coming here since I was inside my mom,” said Jeremy Pittsley of Billerica, Lena’s grandson. “We love this place.”

Pittsley, a bearded landscaper, wore no shirt, had tanned arms and sipped a Corona. He said 15 family members were with him. They drove their three campers to higher ground Sunday about noon.

By then, the lowest point of the campground, about 200 yards from this family affair, had been evacuated and featured knee-deep water. By Monday morning, all that remained in that patch of land, once packed with cars, were four or five empty tents, water-covered tarps in each one, egg cartons and milk containers on top of a picnic table, some trash bags, lots of mud, and four abandoned vehicles.

One was a black Chevy Camaro, once sporty, now lonely. Jeremy Mitchell, the camp’s maintenance and security officer the past six years, said the bold sports car had been humbled this weekend, lifted off the ground, floating a few feet this way when the water first swept in, then floating a few feet the other way once the water receded.

The car’s owner had been humbled, too. Mother Nature, after all, is one tough cookie.

“The water was up to here,” Mitchell said, pointing to the top of the front bumper. “He said he didn’t want to open the door because he didn’t want to get water inside the car. So then he opened the door, grabbed his iPhone and iPad, closed the door and said he would claim it on his insurance. Then, he left.”

The flood hurt business. Or at least it ruined long weekends. A campground official said all spots for this holiday weekend are booked by March, but 160 people had to leave before getting a whiff of any fireworks.

Pittsley said he got a knock on his door Sunday from a fire department official suggesting he and his family prepare for the worst. That meant gathering their gear, then getting in gear.

They drove up, to a higher elevation, near the shuffleboard course, then waited. There were cousins and aunts and nephews and nieces and in-laws and sons and daughters.

“We all had a bunch of pickup trucks,” said David Piscopo, Lena’s son-in-law. “So we all just shoved everything in and moved it up there.”

“The (fire) chief put sticks in the ground to see how much the water level was rising and how fast it was coming up,” said Ann Carter, Lena’s daughter.

They all had stories, including 7-year-old Natalia Aponte, Lena’s great-granddaughter. Aponte said she saw boxes of bananas and watermelon, plus tents, floating around during the flood.

“My first flood,” Natalia said.

None of it mattered. Not to this family. Not after so many years coming to the same spot at the same campground, year after year. They’ll be there the rest of this week.

Carter said the tradition began 25 years ago.

“No, no, no,” corrected Lena. “Thirty years. We relax and enjoy it. We’ll never let the rain ruin our vacation.”