Last spring, my wife Jayne and I were hiking on the Ice Age Trail near New Auburn. The temperatures were slowly warming up and the snow was nearly gone, but there were still some ice-covered puddles alongside the trail. My wife, mother of four grown children and grandmother to four more, took her walking stick and promptly started breaking up the ice. Methodically. With great concentration. Like kids do. I soon joined her, two adults studiously poking holes in the ice, neither saying a word in the middle of the woods.
In past columns, I’ve talked about how Jayne and I will repeat phrases our kids said when they were young, like “I wuv cake.” And I’ve written about my own grandparents and aunts who defied age by doing chin-ups, waterskiing, and sky-diving in their 80s. When Jayne started poking holes in the ice, I started thinking of other kid-like things we do when no kids are around.
We have chased frogs and toads and made nature crafts to mark our visits.
For example, on another hike, we came across a footbridge that was underwater. The area had a lot of rain that summer and a good 3 to 4 inches of water covered the bridge. The two of us had just hiked three-quarters of a 4.5-mile loop and were not about to turn back. Someone had laid some narrow pieces of lumber down approaching the bridge and more planks on the bridge, but that was before the latest rain, and these boards were also underwater. We used our walking sticks for balance and slowly made our way to the bridge, frogs jumping in front of us and water covering our waterproof boots. What did we do when we got to the other side? We laughed and went back. Back and forth a couple of times before we decided we had enough playing around and finished our hike. We have since been back to the same spot once a month to check on the water levels of the bridge. It is still underwater and we go back and forth on it each visit. Jayne started to climb on the side rails. She works at an elementary school, and I suppose she was inspired by kids climbing the playground equipment, because that’s what it looked like she was doing.
We have chased frogs and toads, made nature crafts to mark our visits (for example, on our 91st hike of the year, we made a “91” out of yellow leaves and stuck it in the trunk of a tree), and caught leaves in the air shouting “I’m ahead! I caught four so far!” Not a kid anywhere near.
It’s understandable to do these types of things when there are kids along. When you take them to the playground, it’s not unusual to hop on a swing or go down the slide with them. It is uncommon for someone in their early 60s to go down a slide by themselves without any kids around. Uncommon but more power to those people. When Jayne and I poked holes in the ice, I visualized two youngsters in the woods instead of two grandparents, and it was a good thing.
This is my last contribution to The Grand View column in Chippewa Valley Family. I want to thank the whole Chippewa Valley Family/Volume One staff for inviting me to write for them beginning with their first issue. I started with a piece inspired by one of my grandchildren squeezing a plastic creamer too hard at a local restaurant and end it now with this column about grandparents acting like grandchildren.
I’ll still be around to write the odd article here and there. Otherwise, you can probably find me going down the big slide at Carson Park with my grandchildren and wife. Or with just my wife.