I'll bet everyone thinks by the title here that I am going to talk about the family gathering for my parents' 60th anniversary. That was fun and I think everyone enjoyed themselves, but that's what generally expected isn't it?
what really is on my mind is the celebration of the 4th of July that Daniel, Valerie, and I spent at the Montegue Inn, a historical mansion on the banks of the Saginaw River that is also one the the most elegant restaurants and bed and breakfasts in the area. We picnicked and stayed to sit along the banks of the river to watch the fireworks. I thought 10:00 and 'boom' time would never come, especially once it started sprinkling and we all had to get out umbrellas. There were about 300 people there, each having staked out their territory with an old blanket, in our case a quilt made by hand by my grandmother.
What was most interesting to watch was a family settled just in front of us. Three generations, from a three year old to a gray haired couple, the grandparents. They all just enjoyed themselves, the little onces chasing around and acting like everyone else there was part of the big family. And I guess I can say we all were. We all shared chips, cookies, bubbles the Dora The Explorer chairs, and lots of smiles. But it was interesting to watch the family settle in for the long wait until the 10:00 hour. They brought card games and quiz games and everyone - no matter the age - played and laughed. I enjoyed watching that family interact. And I smiled as I remembered similar times our family shared just like that
But this 4th of July it was just Valerie, 'Gampa' and Mama - as Valerie calls me. Ahh, the joys of watching this little one growing up. She's beginning to talk, soaking up words and trying to say everything that seems important to her. As I watched Valerie this weekend, I was reminded that a child soaks up not just language, but the world itself. And, the world we present to this pliable mind will help mold the character within and perhaps even shape how this child will in turn view her place in the world.
It was fun to watch Valerie eat corn on the cob letting us help her understand she had to grab it with both hands and eat in the middle, not just suck the end like a popsicle. It was fun teaching her to let go and glide down the slide as we cheered her on - one of us at each end of the trip. It was fun to convince her raisins were not bugs but that those sweet morsels make the whole-grain Wheaties so much better tasting. Once convinced she tried to say that difficult word. It was important to see her watching me as I left the car to get the shopping cart so we could cruise through Meijer(to get her some raisins to take home). She watched me to be sure I was coming back with the cart to get her, and I watched her to be sure she could see me coming back for her with the cart.
A child watches our actions just as much as our words and begins to interpret the world. More than anything, I hope we teach each child trust - not a trust based on words, but a simple trust based on our actions. We don't always do a perfect job teaching and there are bumps along the way, but what joy it is to see young people grow up with a positive sense of the world and a simple trust in others, especially in family. That's what made our family picnic a success, not the neatly trimmed yard, the food, or the gifts and cards. That's what made our blanket neighbors 4th of July so much fun - not the spectacular fireworks display, but trusting each other. Because unless we trust each other, we cannot relax, be ourselves or enjoy those around us.