Two summers ago, Alex spent three weeks with us here in Boulder, working on his “Monstrous Me,” book, trail running, baking pies, catching up on summer reading, and joining us for walks and talks. This summer at “Camp Boulder” we hosted our two grandchildren, four-years-old and almost one-year-old, and their father, while their mother toured Vietnam researching a nineteenth-century Chinese scholar, who had been shipwrecked off the coast of Vietnam, before making his way back to his native China.
The two weeks were magical, unprecedented time with the two little ones and their father. They slipped into a new daily, but ever-changing routine, almost without missing a heartbeat. Not that everything was easy, as the time change affected their sleep patterns during the first few days and the four-year-old had three adults who periodically nudged him to be a little gentler with his sister and to dampen his enthusiasm (e.g., loud singing and racing cars) in the house.
Nature camp was a boon for S., four mornings of two hours each exploring and catching water bugs, making homes for fairies and gnomes at Enchanted Mesa Trail behind Chautauqua Auditorium, visiting Sombrero Marsh for a trail hike to the Cottonwood Grove, and learning about and making habitats for frogs, beavers, and birds at the lower part of Sanitas Valley Trail. I was given exclusive access to watch S. interact with other four-year-old kids, some of whom were shy, others outgoing, and some, like him, who were enthusiastic, wanting to tell fantastical stories to their counselor and throw rocks in every stream, marsh, or ditch they could find!
L., only a few days shy of becoming a one-year-old, tried to keep up with her brother, crawling, standing, walking holding two hands, playing with trucks, and inseparable from her bike helmet (which meant she’d just gone on or was about to go on a bike ride with her father). Always with a smile, focused gaze, and chattering non-stop, she is a precious, adorable, “you just want to squeeze her,” child.
Thursday afternoon, we drove to the Dakota Ridge Dinosaur Museum (a must-see for four-year-olds), to shift sand for possible fossils (a shark tooth!), to hike along the ridge to view ancient sea beds and crocodile scratches, huge dinosaur footprints, and a view of the Red Rocks.
Our mini-family reunion was on Saturday, August 10. All my siblings (five of us), six of our combined ten children, and nine of the ten grandchildren, gathered at North Boulder Park for our first all-family get together since our mother’s memorial service in August 2014. What a joy to see the kids becoming reacquainted, to meet new babies, to see the posse of seven and eight-year-old girls gather around and play with L., wanting to hold her, to walk her, to touch her. S., meanwhile, rode his two-wheeler bicycle (shipped in parts to our house) around and around the park and through every puddle of water he could find. The time together was short, as intended, allowing different families and groups to break apart into smaller groups for time before and after the picnic. Our parents would have been proud of us!
That evening, not ones to give S. a break, he and his father ran the “Family and Friends” one-mile race as part of the Pearl Street Mile. After a very full day (which started with a hike to Dakota Ridge with other friends before the reunion), S. ran the full mile, only stopping twice for a few seconds. Near the end (remember, at altitude and a hot day), he remarked to his father that he was “over-heated,” otherwise no complaints and a big smile on his face when he got his first medal!
No rest for the weary, Sunday we went on a bike ride to a coffee shop for muffins (a staple at home for the kids), before a visit to the Denver Children’s Museum, an amazing place for climbing, exploring, engaging with the physical world, learning about bubbles, energy, water, etc. S. is especially interested in astronauts and space craft, so even those interests were met. A wonderful children’s (and adult) space.
Next were four days at Grand Lake, Colorado, in small cabins high above the lake. We took daily hikes on a steep trail to the lake, played in sand for hours, walked forest trails, hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park to 12,005’ on the alpine tundra, counting 236 stairs each way. The gusty winds almost blew us off the top, but with a chocolate snack in Gaga’s pocket to entice him to the top, S. made it the entire way and back to the shelter of the gift shop. L. was snug in her Baby Bjorn, held closely to her father, barely a peep from the trek and wind.
Life is constantly moving and changing, exciting and challenging, with two very active little ones. Their enthusiasm, their wanting to stop and check out four-leaf-clovers or to gather stones to hold until the next stream, their inquisitiveness about EVERYTHING, was tiring but in the best way possible.
The two weeks quickly came to an end; Friday, S. and I explored the Boulder History Museum and then a swim with L. and their dad at Spruce Pool; their mother returned late Saturday night after a very successful Vietnam trip; Saturday farmer’s market; more play time at the wonderful playground at the main Boulder Library; a last dinner at a local restaurant; ice-cream cake for L.’s first birthday; then bed-time and 3:45 a.m. wake-up call for the ride to the airport for the flights home.
Whew…Sunday was quiet, sheets and towels were washed, toys were put away, books were re-shelved, I finally got in some piano playing, but, but…oh, I miss those two already!