Island Camping

It was my brothers idea and it wasn’t even a bad one. (As his sister I’m required to say stuff like that.)

As kids we had taken many summer trips island camping in the flowages of northern Wisconsin and now that our own kids were all out of the major diaper/nap/crying stages he suggested we do it again.

The weather was rather…

…uncooperative……but it didn’t matter.

There was still fishing…

 

…and canoeing…

 

… and kayaking..

… and games…

… and sand to play in…

…and boats to learn to drive…

 

…and general silliness with cousins…

… and one very happy, very tired, rather stinky dog.

As we packed up on Sunday that brother of mine had another idea.

He said we should do it again next year.

I agreed wholeheartedly.

Because sometimes that brother of mine has really good ideas.


For accuracy’s sake I feel compelled to note that while we started with seven people more family joined us throughout the trip until we numbered 12. I however took more pictures of kids, bumblebees and my dog than anything else and they are all highly underrepresented in photos. Sorry family! 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words But…

It’s said that a pictures is worth a thousand words and it may be true, but sometimes they need a few more. 

A little girl meanders down a sandy road, with her dog trotting behind on a summer’s day.

But there was more to it than that.

For starters, that dog isn’t trotting along behind (he doesn’t ever do that), he is briefly checking in with his family before diving back into the foliage to see where his nose will lead him. That foliage is swarming with mosquitoes and biting flies (Can you see the little girl slapping her arm?) and riddled with poison ivy even if it does look inviting and green from a distance.   You can’t tell from the picture that that little girl is the princess of the family in every way and that everyone was surprised when she was the first to put her shoes on and run for the door when a hike in the woods was suggested. Nor can you tell that she’s out in front of her mom, grandpa and sister quick stepping along because she’s hoping to see the “interestin’ stuff” first and you can’t tell that she lingers at the interesting finds the longest. You also can’t tell that the accompanying sister is not the sister who was expected but the oldest, who was too interested not to come and too pretend-grumpy to admit it and so complained about the swarms of bugs and the lack of fun at every opportunity. You can’t see that her sister didn’t have too much time to complain because her grandpa was busy showing them tracks: deer tracks, bear tracks, turkey tracks, woodcock tracks, snapping turtle tracks and wolf tracks.  You can’t see her mom trying to identify flowers with the little girls’ grandpa, while checking out the growing hazelnuts and chewing on wintergreen. And you can’t see her mom melting in the sweatshirt that she’s wearing on such a hot day just to hide from the bugs as she gives the little girl a piggyback ride up the hills on the way home while snapping pictures of butterflies, flowers… and of  a little girl with her dog.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it still needs an additional three hundred and sixteen.

It’s Not Summer Until…

It’s not summer until the catalpa tree blooms.

At least, that’s what my mom told me.

Now, when asked, she doesn’t remember telling me that. Of course she figures since she said it, and since the catalpas do often bloom right around the first day of summer, that it must be true. (That’s my mother for you.)

Mom said, (even if she doesn’t remember) that it’s not the hot days, that getting out of school isn’t the key and that you’ll only know it’s really summer once the catalpas turn white.

As a girl I remember feeling the hot sun, and thinking it must finally be summer, then checking the trees and realizing it hadn’t started quite yet. It was never a disappointment, just a fact. If the catalpas weren’t flowering, it was just a warm spring.  Days of rolling down hills until dark, playing in the lake and catching fireflies were yet to come.

Then when they did bloom – now it was summer. Sometimes we would pick the flowers and string them into necklaces but for the most part I just remember that soft internal sigh, the feeling you get when things click into place and everything makes sense, at least for a time.

The catalpas were blooming.

Summer was back again and with it, no school, no shoes, just the joys of long summer days.

Today, my girls and I were helping out my grandparents for the day and saw the catalpas in full bloom. And even though my summers now come with more duties instead of less, and even though this summer is starting out even crazier and busier than normal, and even though I know the first day of summer isn’t actually until next week, and even though I now know that while my mom remembers braiding catalpa blooms into her horse’s mane and tail as the summery-est activity she can think of and she doesn’t remember imparting this wisdom to me that I have held close all my life…

Despite all of that.

I saw the catalpa trees in bloom today and while my grown-up life tried it’s hardest to throw it’s responsibilities in the way, I still felt the excitement that comes with the start of summer.

The catalpas are blooming!

Let summertime begin!


Well… the catalpas were blooming last week, I did mention this summer is starting off crazy right?

Do you ever wonder what sort of off-hand comment your kids will pick up and hold dear to their hearts forever? I started thinking about it,  and have decided I wouldn’t recommend it.  If you are anything like me, you make a lot of random comments that shouldn’t go down in history as family lore!

Except for the catalpa trees and summer but there is nothing random about that.  

That’s just a fact of life. 

Grandpa Knew

In his ninety-eight years Grandpa learned all sorts of things.

He knew Finnish and English, cattle and crops and engines of all kinds.  He knew fishing and hunting, woodworking and welding and would talk bees with me whenever I started asking questions.

Just a few years ago Grandpa had a bad spell that put him in the hospital. My Dad and I headed north to visit, worried what sort of state we would find him in. After his usual welcoming smiles were delivered from the hospital bed, conversation quickly turned to current international news and how events in Russia might affect his stock prices. I was out of my league. It was clear that Grandpa still knew his finances and he was feeling better.

Grandpa’s eight children eventually brought him fifteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren, all of whom made their way onto his lap. As he bounced those babies of the family on his knee, played giggling games of peek-a-boo and made funny faces, it was abundantly clear that Grandpa also knew babies. By the time Ivy showed up in the world as great-grandchild number six, he also knew all about mothers.

One day while we were visiting, Ivy was Unhappy. It wasn’t the first time he and Ivy met, but it was the first time he met Ivy while she was teething.  At his request I passed her over anyway and while Grandpa bounced her on his knee she cried. He made faces and she whimpered while chewing on her fist. Then Grandpa stopped, dug in his pocket and pulled out his old pocket knife. Small, brown and worn, he held it out to me for inspection. All babies love chewing on this he told me. See, he demonstrated rubbing his thumb across it, it’s nice and smooth, nothing to hurt her. And then, after I nodded my consent, he handed his knife to Ivy. She gratefully grabbed it, stuffed it in her mouth and set to work gnawing, no doubt just as those of us who came before her had. My grumpy girl was back to happily bouncing on her smiling Grandpa’s knee.

If you’ve never been a new mother, or it’s been a long time, let me remind you of the uncertainty that accompanies it. Everything your baby does is new, and it’s either amazing or worrying or both. At the same time it seems that everyone who talks to you already has had kids and they are  neither amazed or uncertain. Most all of those same people seem happy to not only tell you what to do but start doing it for you without so much as a by-your-leave. But not Grandpa. Grandpa knew babies and new mothers. That extra moment he took to show me his knife touched me so deeply I remember how the tears welled as I sat on the sofa across from him.

He gathered knowledge and used it well for ninety-eight years and the tears have done more than well in my eyes in the days since he’s been gone.

Edwin J. Eloranta

1918-2017