This week I became an Amma. (That’s Icelandic for Grandma. ) I have no children of my own; my stepdaughter, whom I’ve known since she was a bit less than 4 years old, just gave birth to my husband’s first grandchild. I am overjoyed.
This is my shot at having a legacy. Since I have no children and neither does my brother, so our branch of the Peturson clan dies with us.
Why do we care if we are remembered? I have decided in my just over half a century of living that the importance is in knowing that I helped improve the world, or at least a few of the people in it.
I don’t care if I am recognized. I’d like to be remembered by those I loved.
More importantly, I’d like it if someone I spent time knowing or something I did while here tips the dominoes in a way that sends the world down a nicer path. Just one link in the chain.
I understand the food chain. I contemplate it often, and give thanks for my chance to participate in it. I work hard to appreciate its bounty. All I’m asking is for the chance to do the same with people.
I plan to give this grandchild a taste of my heritage, both Scottish and Icelandic. And I don’t just mean shortbread and vinertarta.
This little girl will learn the strength of both the pillagers and their impossible-to-conquer Celtic “pillagees”. She will have a chance to understand the strength of character that comes from integrity and believing in yourself – even when it means eating haggis or rulypilsa.
I can’t wait to talk to her, to hear her dreams for the world and for herself. I hope I’ll have the chance for many meals filled with scintillating conversations, just like I had with her mom. Talks about everything from what the latest cartoon characters are doing to who had what foe lunch at school to what she wants to be when she grows up.
I can’t wait for her to teach me things about the magic of the world she will know. I have a feeling she will have more for me than I for her. But that is my idea of the circle of life.
It’s just like an enjoyable meal, starting out with one course or ingredient and working your way through a collection of flavours and aromas and textures.
At the end, your memories are about the combinations and how they interacted. Your appreciation though, is for the ingredients (just like it is for the people) that make up the experience.
As my regular readers will know, I’m an old-fashioned gal who loves nostalgia. Apparently nostalgia is a popular thing in a pandemic world. It might be one reason why camping has been a top activity for families this summer.
People are creating new memories, about which they can be nostalgic years from now. There are also us older folks, shaking our heads as we compare our nostalgia with the newer version.
I remember camping as being a time when most of the everyday rules were suspended. Bedtime was when we were done having fun for the day; parents didn’t mind because that meant we were out of their hair.
As far as I can tell, this part hasn’t changed in principle. The difference is that often the activities and entertainment are provided by the parents, not thought up by the kids.
If we ever said we were bored while camping, we were given a task like picking up any garbage on the ground in the campsite or chopping wood. It taught us to come up with our own more attractive alternative. Today’s version is often supplied: I saw more than a few parents setting up videos for viewing in camper trailers.
I’m not sure what is new and exciting for kids today; for me it was simple things that changed when we went camping. Perhaps that was because we didn’t have portable screens? I bet some other old folks out there share my memories.
Are you ready? Here we go…
🥣 Those nifty miniature cereal boxes you could cut open and eat from. We only had Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops out of those boxes, never at home. Thankfully my dad ate the Rice Krispies.
🍪 Camp cooking was home-grown ingenuity – wonders that could all be cooked in a fry pan. Store-bought cookies were a camping delicacy – Oreos and Dad’s Chocolate Oatmeal were our favourites. Mom’s cookies at home were good, but you couldn’t pull them apart or lick off the coating.
🚘 Time in the car was even entertaining. (Okay, it was, except for when my little brother took up more than his share of the back seat, or when the dog drooled on my shoulder. ) We sang songs and played “I Spy” and license plate bingo.
It’s true that there were times I didn’t enjoy in the moment. Cold and wet and tired, dragging myself back to the campsite after hiking Illecillewaet glacier, I felt even worse when my vinyl runners melted by the fire as they were set out to dry. And when my cousin got his roasted marshmallow stuck in my pigtail, that was no fun either. But those times are the threads that make the fabric of my life unique.
I don’t mean to say one has to suffer to have a good story, but experiences offer us a chance to learn and grow, and share the excitement that can entail.
When I was a kid, the ultimate camping treat was Jiffy Pop popcorn. It was a compact tinfoil pan when Mom packed it, but once we shook it over the fire or Coleman stove, it unfurled into a magnificent silver ball full of steaming hot popcorn.
On our recent trip to the Kootenays, I discovered the current version of Jiffy Pop does not have the “pop pop” I remember. Rather, it was the “beep beep” of the microwave. I winced, mourning the loss of a great tradition.
“When I was a kid” was the preamble for my Dad’s tales of how his childhood was more interesting than mine. Dare I say “challenging”? He might have even said “better”.
Now that I’m about to become a grandmother I look forward to being able to pass along the wisdom of my days to a brand new generation.
Most of all, I hope camping will be an occasion to remind my grandkids about having time when there is no need to rush, just a desire to share. We will sing songs in the car and stop for ice cream and collect treasures and roast marshmallows. Then they can tell their kids about the days of old…
For me, Summer is all about simple pleasure and new adventures. Winter is more about routine and the comfort of everyday life, and spring and fall are about the transitions in life (school, weather, sports, etc.) Summer is the season that holds the most magic as it has the potential for the most memories.
When I was a kid, we spent summers with my cousins, near the water. We were either in Vancouver, where they lived, or by a lake somewhere in BC. We always had a great time together, like a band of pirates we were. There were some amazing adventures.
I learned to do a somersault off a dock, learned how NOT to waterski (make sure you let go of the rope when you fall), and I made clay and sand sculptures on the beach. I hiked up Illecillewaet Glacier (well, part of the way, with my little legs – I think I was 7?)
My cousins and I discovered flattened frogs at the roadside in the Kootenays the years we stayed on Kootenay Lake. When I was 5 years old, I saw a muskrat my first time in a canoe, and a foal being born the summer we spent near Canim Lake in Caribou Country. Our family dog learned how to swim when she wandered off a sinking dock that summer, too.
Summers in the city were plenty of fun too. Rollerskating and popsicle-eating were favourite pastimes. We liked those frozen tubes called Freezies – remember them? They came in a psychedelic rainbow of wonderfully unnatural colours. Second Beach in Stanley Park was the locale for more beach days and Freezies consumed than I could ever count.
For much of my adult life, I have worked much of the summer and so my first-hand exposure to the spirit of the season has been limited. On our one yearly getaway in past years to Perrygin Lake in Washington, I was heartened to see kids fishing for craw dads, learning how to dive off the dock, and generally make their own good time.
My hubby and I floated the Methow River (something I highly recommend, despite your hind end going numb within minutes of exposure to the glacial water).
We played cornhole, also known as bean bag toss or bag-o, depending on where you come from. We saw the kids eating “otter pops” (the current version of a Freezie). Everyone had new summer memories to take home.
I am fortunate to work in situations where I see that the spirit of summer lives on. We cater pool parties full of silly antics, and family reunions with simple (non-video) games anyone can win. This year the upside of not working is that we have more time for camping and enjoying our lovely outdoors here in .BC. We have seen families still enjoying a simple good time and it warms my heart.
I must admit it’s nice to know I can still perform a respectable cannonball off a dock and roast a mean marshmallow over the campfire (even if it’s propane-fueled when the fire danger is high). There is much to be gained in retaining the spirit of childhood in the summer sun.
Please indulge in this tradition, especially in a year when there are many other usual things we aren’t doing. Have a s’more, dive or jump off a dock… or at least cheer on the little people you know. If it doesn’t make you remember the secret of life, try it one more time. You’ll see what I mean.
Twenty years ago, my life changed forever.
I woke up and started the day much as I have for most of my adult life – by taking my Brown Girl for a walk. I’ve had a few furry friends over the years, but all of them have been the same loyal companions day in and day out. There is something wonderfully grounding in starting the day with a creature that stays by your side and loves you no matter what.
From that early and ordinary start, my day would be like no other I had. It was to be full of symbols, however. I felt linked through time to so many moments in history, so many places in time. Wedding days are rife with symbols.
I’ll admit, I geeked out on traditions that exemplified the spirit of a happy wedding. I had my “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” I looked up the tradition behind certain flowers and I wanted good omens, positive vibes, moments to connect the day.
We got married on the same day as my parents. I wore my mom’s dress. My dad and I walked down the aisle to “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, and Sleepless in Seattle. I was so proud to walk with my dad, as his health had not been good at all and I was grateful he was there to hand his princess over to the next guy taking care of her.
My mom carried daisies, just as she did on her day. I even had my cousin throw confetti down her dress after the ceremony, just as he did all those years ago. (He was only 3, and was disappointed he missed throwing his handful with the adults as my parents left the church. She bent down for him just before she got in the car, and he tossed it right down her dress. I remembered her showing me the envelope of it, one day as she was reminiscing.)
We incorporated personal symbols too. Our first connection, our first date, was with our dogs. It was important they be a part of our celebration, so they played key roles in the ceremony. His Doberman was our ring bearer, walking with my stepdaughter down the aisle; my Chocolate Lab was my flower girl, led by my goddaughter.
My hubby had no one from back east able to come out to Vancouver. We had a picture of his mom on a reserved seat right up front, in her honour. His best friend was busy with young kids. His sister was moving that weekend in Montreal. And yet he was all about me having time with my people.
- My longest-standing girlfriend came all the way from Ghana with her family so she could be my Matron of Honour and her daughter (my goddaughter) could be a bridesmaid. She brought a coin for me to carry in my shoe as a token of good fortune.
- my best girlfriend in Canada designed T-shirts for our family to wear that weekend, and delivered them personally from Calgary.
- all my aunts and uncles were there (it turned out to be the last time that my dad would be with all of his siblings)
Everything was done outside, at Brock House in Point Grey, Vancouver. Thankfully Mother Nature was kind and we had a pleasant day. We didn’t spend money on a photographer as we were keeping expenses low, but a friend took a beautiful group shot and my dad thankfully couldn’t resist snapping a few frames. This was before the days of smart phones – we had Instamatic cameras for guests to be put out on the tables, but no one remembered to do that. (I didn’t have a wedding planner, either.)
Dancing was another big part of our life, and our wedding. Hubbie and his daughter did a lovely cha-cha, and my dad and I danced to the Platters. For our dance together, I changed into the dress I was to wear on our destination wedding in Jamaica (I wore it there 13 years later).
It all went by too fast. I remember moments, but wish there were more. A few people had to leave before I had much of a chance to chat with them. And of course Hubbie and I hardly had anything to eat. The buffet looked lovely, though.
We did get some cake, and we took the remainder back to the hotel and had some at midnight. I wish there were more photos of that cake – the best one we have was when it was in our fridge before the wedding, as Hubbie decorated it.
Our wedding day didn’t go quite as planned. Neither did much of the twenty years that followed – we learned very quickly to roll with the punches the Universe threw at us. There were hard times, and sad times, and plenty of happy times too. The best part, the part for which I am most grateful, is that we had each other throughout all of it.
I am so very fortunate. I have a soulmate. My guy is someone who committed twenty years ago to stick it out with me, and he has been true to his word. I had no idea then just how much I could love him for it. I’m beginning to get an idea now.
Not to mention… boy, have I had a lot of great cake!
*One final note: For anyone reading this who has yet to be married, here are my top tips:
- If you don’t hire a wedding planner, get someone reliable who isn’t in your wedding party to be your point person for the day and keep things on track.
- Tell your photographer the shots you want – people and moments you want to have pictures of. Then tell them they need to stay on time with the schedule, so your guests aren’t kept waiting.
- Make yourself a “bucket list” of moments for the day with your partner (each and together) and keep it handy on your day – a hug from Granny, a moment just the two of you, etc.
- Don’t try and include everything in one day – it’s impossible. If you have the luxury, spread the festivities over a few days. If not, go back to your bucket list to narrow it down.
- Stop, at least twice during the day and just breathe. Take it all in, and be grateful.