It is the business of grandparents to create memories and the relative of memories: traditions… Ellen Goodman
My grandma friend, Kathleen, put these words into practice by creating memories for her granddaughters and passing on her tradition of spending summers camping in nature.
A few weeks ago Kathleen sent me one of her enthusiastic emails: “I’m off to White Wolf Lodge with Bridget, 4, and Cate, almost 6, for 3 days. We’ll sleep in a tent cabin and enjoy the High Country in Yosemite all along Tioga Road. Hiking and outdoor exploring here we come!!!“
Camping with children (two little girls) seemed like quite an undertaking for a grandma, but Kathleen has been camping since she was a “wee child growing up in Ireland.” During childhood summers, Kathleen’s parents took her and her two brothers camping every weekend. “We lived like gypsies, shopping at local farms for fresh food and sleeping in a tent,” she tells me in her beautiful Irish lilt.
As a single mom, Kathleen often took her two daughters hiking and camping, instilling in them a love of nature. She now has five granddaughters. She decided to give the two youngest their first wilderness adventure this summer. She packed plenty of snacks, games, and coloring books for the five-hour drive to Yosemite. Mother Nature supplied the rest of the entertainment. Kathleen brought along her friend, Wendy, who cannot hike but is playful like Kathleen. During the ride they took turns singing to the girls and telling them stories.
They stopped at Groveland for a picnic lunch and arrived at their tent cabin with plenty of time left to explore. Kathleen gave the girls their first rock-climbing lesson near their campsite. It was the first time the two little sisters had slept in a tent without electricity or heat, but they were cozy in their double bed. They lit a stove in the chilly morning and ate breakfast under trees in the sunshine.
They were the first to arrive at Tenaya Lake one morning and had the beach to themselves. The girls made “stoup,” a stew/soup made of mud, sand, dirt, sticks and stones. That evening they had a bear scare when they heard the park rangers shouting at a bear in their campgrounds. The rangers set off a flare to scare him away. Kathleen gave her granddaughters a flashlight to keep them from feeling scared. On their way home they stopped at another campsite and discovered a fallen tree. Kathleen proudly told me the girls had their first tree crossing over a stream. The two sisters got along beautifully and never asked for their mother. As they prepared to leave, the girls’ eyes got big and they told their grandmother they could live there forever.
These two little girls are certainly blessed to have such an adventurous grandmother. What wonderful memories she has created for them. It’s also a testament to the trust she has built with their mother. Kathleen joked that the only request her daughter made was: “Mommy please don’t leave them alone for even a minute.” The moment she returned Kathleen went straight to Walgreen’s with her camera and made a photo book for each granddaughter.
Kathleen’s advice to other grandmas: just do it!