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.
It’s Father’s Day today, and I’m sad. I feel rather forlorn. You see, I grew up as a Princess, with all the trappings of a young girl in a magic kingdom. I had an idyllic childhood, full of happy memories in good times and lessons learned in tough times. Everything always turned out okay, and more often than not it felt that way because my Dad was the one to cheer me on or push me on. After all, he was the one who made me a Princess. The problem is, he’s gone now.
I miss my dad every day, but Father’s Day hurts in a special melancholy way. It makes me remember the myriad of things that my Dad taught me, and then the breath catches in my throat as I am struck with not being able to tell him or hug him to say thanks.
I don’t like to dwell on the past – you can’t live there. But I don’t want to forget “wonderful Daddy from Winnipeg” , as we used to joke should be his title. So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to mention some of my favourite memories and learnings:
- Waking up to music he would play… I had a turntable in my bedroom and he would come down and put a record on to wake me up for school. Billy Joel, The Eagles, Supertramp, Neil Diamond, Nilsson. I still love “Dad rock”, as all that music is now labelled.
- Watching CBS Sunday Morning, together and then separately when I was older, but still sharing our love for the good news and the quirky discoveries in the world. I still watch, and often smile at stories I know he would have enjoyed.
- Marching to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – through the house, pretending to be like Mickey Mouse with his broom.. The whole family would march in a line, my brother and I swinging our imaginary brooms with great fervor and my Mom bringing up the rear (to make sure things didn’t get too crazy). We’d go down the hall and over their bed, even. It makes me smile every time I think of it.
- Eating the fried egg sandwiches he used to make me before early morning high school basketball practice. I wish now I had practiced even harder. I wish I’d known then that stronger arms would have helped my shot. But he cheered me on through my clutziness, and even bought season tickets to the Vancouver Grizzlies’ inaugural season years later, so we could watch games live. I travelled from Calgary whenever I could, and we saw Michael Jordan play!
- His sayings still get me through tough days – “Illegitimum non carborundum est” (don’t let the bastards get you down) and “optireculitis” (a condition in which your optical nerve gets tangled with your rectum, giving you a shitty outlook) . When I felt as though the world was against me, he would always say, “Who loves you, Kricky? Your Daddy does.”
- Our trip to Maui was full of great memories and lots of laughter. He hadn’t been well and the quality time was good for both of us. I was so chuffed when one of the last times we spoke he talked of how great that trip was…
- The Treehouse Bistro, which was the 2 directors chairs at the corner window in his West End apartment, was the place we solved all the problems of the world on many a Friday night. Now I have the chairs, and every time I sit in one I think of our great ideas, and the spectacular meals we ate in them.
- “Where’s the other 2 percent ?” – the answer to my declaration that I got 98% on a test at school. Then it was frustrating to be teased, but it made me tough enough to take the blows the world dealt me, and it made me want to push myself and improve.
- “Drive till you get there”. Learning to drive, a standard no less, was stress at a new level with my dad, who was an RCMP officer for a time as a young man. Thanks for keeping me safe, Daddy.
- “If you got it, flaunt it”. This wasn’t meant to be trashy, but rather to encourage my self-confidence. My dad knew I was the not the kind of kid who fit in, and he more than anyone helped me learn to be myself, and be proud of that.
- “Take 10 pictures for every one you want. Film is cheap.” Nowadays it’s even cheaper with digital pics, and I’m thankful to have memories recorded. I wish I had copies of more of my childhood photos!
I could go on, but perhaps the most important thing I learned, ironically, came from the fact that he got sick. For many years the doctors predicted he didn’t have long to live, so my dad did not sit back to save for a rainy day. He lived the Carpe Diem philosophy to the fullest he could. It shaped my life, and has been my motivation to strive for that balance in life we all hope to have.
I so wish we’d had more time together. But I am so thankful for all that I got from my dad. I might be a Princess without a kingdom but I am still a Princess. I can still flaunt it, I can still battle the dragons, I can still reach for my happily ever after. I know somewhere there is a soul out there smiling proudly. Who loves you, Daddy? Your Kricky Princess, that’s who.
My last post was about the simple joy of the flowers in the garden, and when I stop to smell the flowers, as my mom always encourages, it makes me think of my favourite verse in a poem I studied in high school, “Ode. Imitations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”.
Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
-William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
As a teenager, I loved the rhyme but the meaning of the words didn’t really sink in. For some reason though, it stuck in my head, and as I get older it becomes increasingly poignant.
Perhaps my romantic nature is part of why I became a foodie. The nature of a meal is ephemeral at best, lasting only as long as food is on the table. Capturing the magic of shared company and tastes (in the food and the people) has created the fabric of so many memories for me. That fabric has become the tapestry of my life.
The garden has the same quality, always changing and following the circle of life. It has been a great lesson for me to learn that the faster I cut away the old blooms, the sooner the plants will offer up more in return. (Turning a blind eye only prolongs the sorrow, with dead stalks waving in the wind instead of the vibrant colour of new life.)
Another of my favourite writers is Tom Robbins, a more modern fellow than Mr. Wordsworth, but with the same romantic tendencies. He spoke of childhood too, and how as adults many of us search to maintain that sense of wonder kids know innately.
I’ll close off with a quote from “Still Life with Woodpecker”, one of my most cherished reads of all time.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
1. Everything is part of it.
2. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
If it seems a bit obtuse, I can only recommend you read the book. If it makes sense, well then I hope we come into contact some time so we can share in the magic.
It’s a day off today, so we made a plan for our free kitchen time. In the spirit of Sunday morning, a day of traditionally indulgent eating, we chose to make donuts.
My dad and I made cake donuts a few times when I was a kid and it was a very fond memory. We did it again years later when I was in my thirties; we couldn’t find the original recipe so we worked out another one. We called the recipe “Born Again Donuts“, as it was a resounding success.
Today I went wild and created a new variation (it’s listed with the recipe in the link). My dad loved an adventure; I’m pretty sure he would have approved of the new chocolate orange flavour. I got a kick out of the new Rabbit Hollow-inspired shape, too.
My hubbie decided to make a yeast donut, so that we could have a variety of flavours. He created a chocolate caramel glaze for the usual donuts with holes, and then filled some round donuts with strawberry jam we had in the fridge (not a house-made preserve, but strawberry is the kind of jam you need to put in a donut). I also made a rosewater honey glaze that we dunked a few twists into, just for a bit of sticky fun. All those flavours covered the retro and foodie angles nicely.
Donuts are certainly not a healthy food, what with being deep-fried and coated in sugar or honey. However, homemade with no chemicals or preservatives they are at least natural. And they can provide a sense of emotional wellness.
My dad would have been tickled pink if he could have sat down with us to sip on a cup of fresh coffee and a homemade jam buster.
Here’s looking at you, Daddy!