“Here Grandpa, I picked flowers for the camper! You can put them in a jar.” There is no shortage of blossoms in the garden where we are staying. We are surrounded by all kinds of beauty. And most of the time, we are happy to have flowers outside. But a bouquet that is hand picked by a granddaughter is a special thing to bring inside. I found a glass, filled it with water and put the plants on the table. For a few days they will brighten our living space. Of course they don’t add as much to our place as do the sounds of grandchildren on a sleepover.
Several years ago we found ourselves with a slide-in pickup camper that was well used and wearing out. The water system developed leaks. It seemed like as soon as I would fix one, another developed. It was a pot-top camper and the mechanism to raise and lower the roof was getting old and the cables stretched and it didn’t always go up and down correctly. The camper had always had a bit of a condensation problem and we had to keep on top of it to keep things dry. We had really enjoyed that camper and had lived in it for months at a time on sabbatical, but it was coming to the end of its useful life. We got lucky and found a hunter who could make use of it a couple of weekends a year and was willing to pay a small amount for it and it was sold for a modest price. As we shopped for a new camper, we were brand new grandparents, so wanted one with room for sleepovers in the future. We found a camper with a bunkhouse. In addition to the double bed there are four bunks at the opposite end of the camper. All of this in a 25 foot package! It is just right for the way we use our camper. As soon as our grandson was two years old, he was ready for sleepovers. Now we have four grandchildren and three of them are in the family where we have our camper parked. We have sleepovers all the time now.
Pancakes for breakfast is a camper tradition, and the garden is producing lots of strawberries at the present so we have strawberries in our pancakes. Later in the season there will be raspberries and blueberries as well.
“Grandma, the camper is my favorite place in the whole world!” That single declaration was worth the purchase price of the camper in my opinion.
We are certainly having fun with our grandchildren. All three have their own life jackets and are becoming comfortable with short rides in boats. Yesterday the oldest two (9 and 6) rowed with me across the lake. They aren’t big enough to handle the oars without some help, but they can sit in front of me and put their hands on the oars as I row. Both can handle a kayak a little bit in calm water. Yesterday they perched in the bow the boat and gave me directions. Rowing is a backwards art. You get used to navigating by looking over your shoulder and lining up with something that is behind you. I actually enjoy the change in perspective that rowing gives. But yesterday I had a couple of guides, who were practicing using “port” and “starboard.” They got pretty good at it.
My life has always been full of all kinds of adventures. The last week has been filled with all kinds of new adventures. Each day brings new possibilities and fun places to explore. The children have their chores. There are chickens and a guinea pig that need food and water every day. They pick berries and peas in the garden and will help in other ways as the season progresses. They have inside chores of picking up toys and clothes and helping around the house. And since the pandemic interrupted their schooling, they have had home school lessons with workbooks and spelling lists and a routine. Still, there is plenty of time each day for adventures. There are fun places to go for walks and explores. The pace of a three-year-old isn’t quite the strenuous cardio workout that the grandparents need, so we get our daily walk in during nap time or in the early evening after supper. It is, however, a treat to slow our pace to follow the children as they explore. They are quick to point out things that we might not see. A hollow in a tree or a brightly colored stone might be missed when we are on our walks, but we take time to see those things when we are with our grandchildren.
Living in the church has always given us the opportunity to be around children. One of the great blessings of the past 25 years and one that I really missed when the pandemic forced a shut-down is the joy of working in a building with an active preschool. Being able to walk down the hall and listen to the activities going on in the classrooms, having artwork on the walls in the hallways, listening to the comings and goings of children as parents drop them off and pick them up all combine to provide the symphony of life in the church. On the days when the job consists of a lot of work at the computer or too many phone calls, a short break to walk to the other end of the corridor can be a real treat.
It is the natural way of people to be drawn to those of different ages. For generations grandparents have been the primary providers of childcare for many families. In our fast-paced, every mobile society, however, our children and grandchildren often live in distant places and we seek relationships beyond our family circle for the joys of having children in our lives. For us, who have lived and worked in the church, one of the luxuries of retirement is the ability to follow our children and live near to our grandchildren. We’re brand new at this adventure, and we know how quickly our grandchildren will grow up, but we will always remember the summer of 2020 as a summer of bouquets, walks and sleepovers.