The kids arrived last Friday afternoon to lots of excitement, noise and the sheer exuberance that children seem to have in abundance. Seems like most of the adults in the world manage to contain their exuberance and keep it firmly under wraps. Not so with children. So the kids spilled out of the van, eager to get in the camper to see the inside and "their bunkhouse". They wanted to explore the campgrounds and find out what there was to do. They wanted to hug us and get going full blast on our camping vacation together.
It wasn't long before we had a camper full of people, food and other things we thought necessary to have a good time camping. We brought alone some games---Phase 10 and Scattergories, among others. We had fishing equipment, books to read and decorations for Halloween. As usual, we brought way more things to do than we had time to do! But that's OK 'cause that just gave us some options when it came time to choose an activity.
We grilled burgers, played games until late into the night, had a reverse Halloween experience (neighbors brought candy to the kids!) and just hung out and had a marvelous time. We brought out the Treasure Chest a few times where the kids got to spend their "coin" ---collected from Gramps who had been observing them being nice to each other and doing helpful things around the camper. Filled mostly with trinkets and cheap stuff, the Treasure Chest also had envelopes with prizes inside like "you get to choose the activity for this evening" and "good for a trip to get a treat". That one resulted in all of us going down to the nearby Dairy Queen (now known as DQ) for an ice cream treat one sunny afternoon.
Luci and Ben bought two small shovels from the Treasure Chest for a few pennies and had a ball digging in the sand that was just a few steps away from the camper. Of course, that meant they had to cross a small bridge that Luci had become convinced was the hiding place of an ogre of some sort so when she crossed it (after much pleading and begging from Ben) she ran as if a monster was about to pounce upon her. Oh, the imagination of a seven year old! But once across, she made a bee line for the sand and dug and dug searching for treasure and just for the sheer fun of digging. No reason needed.
Ben enjoying the white sands at Gulf Shores.
Gavin entertained us with his guitar and enjoyed showing off his developing skills as a musician. His Paw Paw and Ms. Brenda who live in Gulf Shores came by one afternoon and got to hear his musical interludes, including a Beatle tune or two. I think he surprised his Paw Paw when he recognized the Beatle song without being told what it was and realized it was his 13 year old grandson who was playing so skillfully.
Gavin playing "Blackbird" by the Beatles
So the time with the kids and Brian and April went by so quickly that when it was time to leave all of them were lamenting the fact that it was over. They all wished for another day to spend in the sunshine and soft breezes along the Gulf of Mexico. But alas, duty called and Brian had to be back at work, so they left on Tuesday morning as planned.
Before their van drove out of sight, we were feeling the pangs of sadness that come when a happy visit is ending. The pall that fell over us lasted most of the day and we commented how eerily quiet it was here in the camper without the hubbub and laughter that goes everywhere the kids go. It would be easy to let the story end here but really not fair since out of the quiet and still moments after they are gone is when the truth appears.
We are a family (like most, I hope!) that builds up our treasure in the memories of good times together. We squirrel those nuggets of time away in our memory vaults so we can bring them out later and relive them. We pull out a treasured memory and hold it in our hands like a diamond most valued. It really is true that you can't hold time in a bottle. And once the moment is passed, you can't bring it back. What you can hold and bring back are the memories you have created.
How many times have we told the story about the time Rebecca fell out the window in the middle of the night? Can we ever get tired of telling about the time(s) that Gramps/Larry dressed up in some outlandish costume and made all the kids AND grown ups laugh until they cried? And who is ever going to forget our first Iron Chef competition complete with funny fake names (Broccoli Garlique and Luci Balducci, Heir to the Gucci Muchi) and tall chef hats???
So these past few days we've been making deposits in our memory bank. We'll hear the stories about catching only "bait stealers" on their fishing excursion. Ben will remind us for sure how he kicked butt and annihilated us in Phase 10. Luci will long remember the monster under the bridge she evaded on her way to the playground. Larry and I will not forget the poignant moments when the kids were leaving and we realized that these are the moments that really make up the good life.
It's not having all the latest gadgetry or the biggest house, the fastest car or the most money that make it a good life. It's having a family and friends whom you love and wonder of wonders----love you back. It's having a grand daughter who says, "Grammy, if I had an UnSkip Card, I'd use it for you." Then she blew me a kiss. (This was after someone else had used their skip card on me during Phase 10). It's knowing what is important to you and having the good sense to use your time wisely to fill that bank with memories that will last for a lifetime. I know my bank is overflowing with good times, happy memories and even the not so happy times I can recall. They all go in the bank and will get pulled out sooner or later to bring a laugh or even a tear in recollection of the things that make my life worth living.
I hope you'll take the time to look at what's in YOUR memory bank and if you haven't been taking the time to make a deposit, plan on doing that soon. Time is a river that never stops flowing and all you need to do is jump in and start living and making a few memories. Pretty soon, your bank will be filled to capacity. And the good news is that there is always room for more!