‘ Let’s just go camping for our Summer holiday this year’
Hold on a moment, did those words really come from my mouth? Until my mid twenties I recoiled in horror at the thought of camping. After I left girl guide camp half way through the week because I hated it so much, I convinced myself that camping wasn’t for me. In truth, I didn’t hate it at all. A rumour that newcomers would be pushed in the cesspit if they didn’t pass initiation had worried me so much that I begged to go home. My views changed after a few great camping trips as an adult but I’d never have considered a camping trip for my main holiday.
A yearning to explore the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, good weather and the children’s eagerness to go camping, convinced me it was a good idea. An eight hour car journey with a canoe on top of the car, three young children, a dog and a heatwave; perhaps I had lost my mind?
Amazingly, the car journey was fine. The first couple of hours were spent playing ‘would you rather….’ and guessing the names of characters from books or screen. The rest of the journey we listened to cd’s of musicals and admired the view.
Our destination Curlew Lake State Park, chosen for its beauty, a place for the children to swim and for my husband and the girls to go fishing. “Fishing!” I hear my 20- year-old self, with an irrational fear of fish exclaim, ” are you intent on sending me on the holiday from hell?” Strangely none of those sentiments cross my mind as we set up the tent in a quiet corner of the campsite on the shore of the Lake.
Without a shop or a playground in sight, would the children be happy? For now the excitement of sleeping in a sleeping bag, cooking outside and trying to catch their first fish fuelled their enthusiasm.
They were eager to go to the beach to swim. I was amazed that we were the only people on the beach. The ground wasn’t soft like the lake at home but filled with slippery algae. It didn’t put them off. They used the algae and stones to create patterns on the ground and then set up their own foot spa, spreading the algae over their feet and washing it off.
I sat and watched from a distance, joining in when they asked me to. At that moment I knew why this holiday was no longer my biggest nightmare. The children were immersed in the moment, playing, discovering and sharing. In the distance, my husband was on the lake in the canoe and I was here in a rare moment of quiet. This wasn’t one of those family holidays where we rushed to cram in every little experience. I’m sure that these unhurried moments are the ones they will remember most.
There was a child went forth everyday,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became.
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
They found magic in the simple things.
Look I think Eeyore has been here
Maybe it’s his barbecue?
Really! Do you think so?
My eldest had big girl time with dad, paddling the canoe at sunrise. Nights weren’t the most restful we had ever had, with five people and a dog in the same tent but there are few things more peaceful than the middle of a lake in the early morning.
It didn’t take us long to understand the rhythms of nature; the time of day that the deer would wander down the hill to visit, geese would fly across the lake, fish would start to bite or that darkness would fall.
Sometimes though, nature takes you by surprise. One night, as we were snuggled in the porch of the tent telling stories, the poles holding the porch open, fell down. As if from nowhere, the winds whipped up and tugged at the tent. Before we knew it dad and big sister had us zipped up inside while they battled against the wind and dust to secure the tent. I tried to drown out the rangers talk of trees blowing down, by telling the story of ‘My Favourite Things’ from the ‘Sound of Music’ and singing. Enraptured, the little ones soon forgot about the storm. They implored me to tell the story of ‘The Sound of Music’- the whole story, all 3 hours of it complete with every song. Thankfully the storm was short, the tent and trees survived and unlike my 11-year old self, I didn’t get the urge to run home.
One of the reasons for choosing Curlew Lake was the fishing, so in the early evenings we took the canoe out to explore the lake and try to catch fish. The girls had only ever caught small fish and were eager to catch one they could eat. Our family trips in the canoe lacked the quiet and patience needed to catch anything of note. However, on the last day their wish came true. Our neighbouring campers, who visit every year to fish, offered to take us out in their boat and help the girls to catch trout. The fish came one after the other.
Then the fish got bigger
They were so proud of their catch.
After the holiday, fishing has become a regular pastime. When dad goes out on his own, the girls greet him eagerly to see if he has caught anything we can eat. Other times, we all go to the lake together and mix up fishing with swimming and playing. On a recent trip, we explored the river bank , a place we probably would never have visited if it weren’t for fishing . Watching the girls excitement at their discoveries and creating with sticks and stones was magical. We returned home with a pile of sticks and ideas for making things with them. Moments like this are important for all of us. Resting our minds through daydreaming and play increases productivity and creativity says Daniel Levitin author of ‘The Organized Mind’. Without time for spontaneity, children lack the mental space to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things.
As I looked out across the river at the jumping fish, the blue skies and the green trees, I could picture an old couple; man fishing, wife painting the landscape or writing in a notebook. I suppose fishing isn’t so bad after all. I’m happy to spend many more years waiting for the fish.
It’s been 13 years since we lost you and I was just wondering if email had reached Heaven yet? I know you’ve never had an email address or the internet at home but I’m sure there are people there who could teach you.
I’m writing this on my blog. I don’t suppose you have any idea what that is? It’s a bit like a magazine or diary on the internet where I can write whatever I like and anyone can read it. If you get the internet up there check it out because you’ll see lots of pictures of your granddaughters. You have 5 grandchildren now, they are all amazing – you’d be so proud. I’m sad that you couldn’t be at our weddings and haven’t met the grandchildren you yearned for. I tell them how much they’d love you and how much fun they would have with you. If you can email, you could write some guest posts on the blog about all the things we never had chance to ask you. You could help us to identify garden plants and show us the essential things to do each season or teach us how to sew and crochet.
Things have changed a lot in 13 years. The world is a very different place. People carry mobile phones everywhere; with phones you can take photos, check email, surf the internet, watch videos and listen to music. We can talk to our television, pause it and record more than one programme at once without needing a video player. You’d love this thing called Facebook, where you can find out what your friends are up to, chat to them or see photographs. Who knows, maybe you’re following us as we speak?
13 years is a long time, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. If email ever reaches you please send me your address, I miss our little gossips and natters. Wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that no matter how far away we go, we can always be there for our children when they need us? I hope you can see what we are up to and that we are happy and having fun.
I expect the network is far too busy but maybe one day….
Little Legacy is a remembrance project run by Alexander Residence to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.
When reading one of the posts this week I was reminded of a lullaby that I sing to my children. It is a lullaby that I have never heard anyone else sing and have never been able to find elsewhere. I remember my mum singing it to my brother when he was young, he would repeatedly ask for it so I heard it a lot. I remember my mum saying that her mum had sung it to her.
I don’t know if I remember it properly and probably I don’t remember the whole song because it is very short but it is something I have felt compelled to pass down. I believe very strongly in the power of singing to calm children and build a strong bond. When leading parent and toddler music groups I have seen groups of babies go from crying to attentive from the moment I begin to sing. Many a stressful car journey has been saved by singing with my own children but something about lullabies is very special. There are few greater feelings than snuggling cheek to cheek with your baby and singing softly to them as you rock them and stroke their head.
I have been meaning to record lullabies for a long time so this is hopefully the first of many. It is recorded in the way that I would sing to my children (though perhaps a little louder) without background music or distractions, focusing on the voice and cuddles.
This is lulla bye bye short but sweet and loaded with fond memories.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks amongst mummy bloggers as to whether or not we would be prepared to share poetry that we had written as teenagers. The general concensus was ‘no way, it is far too personal and embarrassing’. When I joined the discussion, I had just found my book of poetry from my teenage years and started to read it. I agree that much of it is very naive, about love and loss of love and the desperate nature of teenage romances. However, some of it is about other issues. It shows the common beliefs that you hold when you are young , a sense of injustice and the hope that you will change the world some day. I wrote lots of poetry as a teenager , helping to frame my thoughts and work through issues. As an adult I write them less frequently, usually when I am unhappy and still find it therapeutic.
I’ve decided to be brave and share a poem that I wrote when I was 16 years old – this was written in the mid/late 80’s when there was lots of scaremongering about nuclear war – remember the dramas about what would happen if a nuclear bomb exploded? It’s unedited and uses the punctuation that I chose when writing it.
The End of the World
Screeching! Wailing! Shouting! Screaming!
People run to take cover where they cannot be saved.
Heart jumping, legs quaking, head pounding,
I watch the sky for the beginning of my fate.
Then it comes, with no noise, people silent,
As we watch the air explode into smoke
See the world turning purple, red and yellow,
I feel sick, on my tears I could choke.
Bring my hands to my eyes and bury my head
To protect me from the great blinding light.
What’s happening? Help me! I can’t see!
Am I dead? Is this Heaven? Help me out!
Crumbling world all around me, dying people
But it’s all brought about by greedy men.
It’s the innocent , God fairing children
That are punished and have said their last Amen.
In my last few moments I remember a land
Full of green, much love and content.
See the earth slip away – not just my life
But a place, far too late to repent.
Dust fills my lungs and I crumble to the ground,
And though I am weak and my brain is concussed,
I still know how appropriate those funeral words are
of Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust.
I asked my 6 year old daughter to write something for me to share on my blog. She loves poetry and often chooses a book of poetry as her bedtime story. My husband taught her to recite ‘ Custard the Dragon’ by Ogden Nash, it was lovely to watch them doing this together and I’m sure it has helped with her expressive reading . She used to add in her own bit when Custard cried for his nice safe cage – she would add in a deep ,whiny voice ‘Boo-hoo I want a safe cage’. I think my 2 year old will follow in her footsteps. She often chooses singing books at bedtime which include a mixture of song and rhyme. Learning poetry by heart is such a valuable skill for young children. It covers so many things that are important for becoming competent readers, awareness of rhythm and rhyme, use of alliteration, memory and the use of expression to convey meaning. And of course it is fun.
This week is National Storytelling Week. I was going to write about my experiences of story telling with young children. However,something else that I have been talking about this week seems to relate very well to story telling.
I have been having a sort out of the endless ‘stuff’ we accumulate in our house. One part of that has been to thin out all the things we have stored that we never use and collate our photographs in one place. During this process my husband found a box full of old letters, certificates and notebooks which contain memories that would otherwise be forgotten. We looked at photos of years gone by and the way that we remember things. I also had a conversation relating to memory with a neighbour who recently had a large family gathering. She talked about how when they all got together and talked about past shared events, they each remembered it differently.
How much of our lives get lost because we don’t document it? When we need to find evidence of how we felt, often we can only say, I don’t remember it like that but maybe that is how it was. Sometimes I wish I had documented my life so that I could look back and say with confidence , that is what happened, this is how it happened and this is how I felt.
At times I have kept diaries, mostly during my teenage years. I was so embarrassed by my thoughts when I came across them years later, that I threw them away but a part of me wishes I hadn’t. I have kept diaries of my pregnancies and early days of the children because the children won’t remember those times. I hope that one day I will be here to answer their questions about it but maybe, like my own mother, I will be gone by the time those questions arise. I kept a journal during my honeymoon, I don’t often read it but sometimes it’s comforting to look back on the best times in your life.
My point is that when we think of story telling we automatically think of fiction, but our lives are a story – often the most interesting stories come from real events. What may seem irrelevant or waffly thoughts right now will someday mean something to our children and grandchildren. My most treasured possession is a letter that my mother wrote when she was in hospital after having me. My dad found it after she had died and it is my only account of how she felt to be a mother for the first time . Stories don’t have to be about dragons and adventures, let’s not forget that our own stories matter too. For National Storytelling week I will not tell a story but will try to begin to tell my story so that I don’t forget and will not be forgotten.