Holidays and summer are at the center of our childhood. I was moved by the genuineness of this quote: “Nothing is more powerful than the memories created by a child’s experiences.” (www.westarkchurchof christ.org)
We are adults, but we hold tightly to childhood moments. For me, it was family get-togethers. Every other year, relatives would arrive from Michigan or we would drive there. Anticipating that caravan of cars pulling up and relatives pouring out signaled major house cleaning, grocery shopping, and deciding who got bumped from a bedroom.
On the upside, family visits meant crisp, new summer outfits (sandals, socks, shorts or pedal pushers, and sleeveless blouses), none of which was worn before special outings with the folks. The closer the date, the greater the anticipation; the greater the anticipation, the harder it was getting to sleep. I don’t know if I was more excited about the relatives coming or the new clothes. They were a package deal.
There were favorite cousins and so-so cousins and there were favorite aunts and uncles, but when our family got together, there was no distinction. There was lots of laughter and family love. With nine siblings reminiscing who did what when, there were tall tales and different views of the same situation. Accuracy lay with whoever captured the audience first.
Mind you, there was discipline. Every last one of the cousins knew “how to act.” Forgetting those rules laid out days before the gathering brought embarrassing consequences. When Mom gave that “look” to my brother and me, time froze. Not everyone noticed her subtle warning, but we did and we knew it meant trouble. I am pretty sure Mom learned the skill from her mom, because Granny could stop a clock, too!
Granny was our widowed matriarch. She wasn’t overly demonstrative; her affection came through her cooking — without recipes. Granny loved the outdoors and would spend hours gardening and fishing, as did all her children and now, many of her grandchildren.
Sometimes, while Mom was at work, Granny and I would get our cane poles and a bucket, board a bus from the North Side projects, and go to Theodore Wirth Park. We’d fight mosquitoes in the woods to dig worms, and then fish from the lake shore all day. Unfortunately, the high-pitched whine of just one mosquito drives me nuts to this day and I’ll be hunting and slapping for hours.
I remember how that little plastic yellow and red orb would twitch, then bob, then plunge beneath the water’s surface and I’d smile, just like Granny did as she pulled a sunny from the water.
As a child, to me there was nothing unusual about our family: mother and grandmother heading the house. There was nothing “broken” about us. Each condition and every experience comprised the tapestry of my childhood memories; they influenced how I raised my children and now my child’s child.
Your memories are special. There is a certain benefit gained when the grandparent talks about family. It is a gift that can outlast any video game or DVD. Just as when Granny told me her stories, an account of my life as the grandparent introduces new realities to my grandson.
It is sad to think that the humanness of family contact is yielding to our preoccupation with texting and social networking. True, it is easier and quicker to punch a quick message on the keyboard, and the Internet does help our society to reach out in new and amazing ways.
Those shortcuts can rob us of the richness of making time to reach out and be with a loved one or appreciating the look on a child’s face when we compliment them for having a nose like Great-Gramma, eyes like Aunt Carol, or creative skills like their mom or dad.
The events from your childhood that did or did not work are do-over opportunities for you and your grandchild. The time you spend together can be a foundation for treasured memories.
My grandson still talks about our visit to a park where he fed some ducks and named them after movie characters we’d seen earlier that day. That was over seven years ago. I captured the moment in a photograph; he captured it in his heart.
“It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.” — Barbara Kingsolver, author.
Plan some one-to-one time — just you and your grandchild — with a picnic on a blanket beside Minnehaha Creek or fishing at Theodore Wirth Lake. Nothing elaborate: sandwiches and a thermos of juice or Kool-Aid would be just fine. After all, it’s the company, not the cuisine that counts.
Visit the Minneapolis Park and Recreation website for special events and places to visit: www.minneap olisparks.org.
A helpful read: The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting: 101 Practical Ideas & Meaningful Activities to Share Your Love by Doug and Robin Hewitt.
You can do it!
Judith Hence welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.