You probably never met my grandmother (my mom’s mom) – Hazel Hilliard Archer. Let me introduce you to her. You see, Hazel started a tradition that Hannah and I carry on 70 years later. Let me explain.
Living on Breading Avenue up from the Ohio River in Ben Avon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hazel and my grandfather (Harry) raised four kids; my mom being the second of the quartet. When I was born during a 26” snowstorm in late 1947, my parents lived in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, some 400 miles from Hazel and Harry.
At the time, mothers routinely spent two weeks in the hospital after delivering their child. But that day, some two years after WW II ended, I, as a preemie, was making things a little more complicated. After those two weeks, I still wasn’t gaining weight, in fact, losing it. At that point, my parents and my grandmother (who had come to New Jersey for support) said we are taking Danny home. Immediately I began to thrive. Literally, Hazel saved my life.
Fast forward eight plus years, grandma came to our family home in Jersey to take care of my brother Richard, sister Patty, and me for six weeks while our parents took an ocean liner across the Pond and traveled throughout Europe. I can’t imagine it was a piece of cake dealing with a three, six, and eight-year-old in someone else’s house for a triple fortnight, but Hazel came through in the clutch.
My mother (Jean Archer) followed in her mom’s footsteps. Annually, she and Dad would take care of our three kids (Molly, Robyn, and Will) for a long weekend so Hannah and I could get away to Camden, Maine. Those with young kids know there is no better gift than time alone with their spouse during the child rearing years.
So, fast forward to 2017. After a late November Saturday morning breakfast with the entire Family Rawding at our place, our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip leave for their day while Hannah and I have ourselves a golden 24 hours with Owen and Max.
In ways, Hannah and I are like Farmers Insurance – we have learned a thing or two in the five years we’ve been grandparents to preschoolers. One is that we need breaks ourselves when we are the one-day de facto parents of our grandsons. Two is that we are the grandparents of no naps. We want these boys to fall asleep at 7P. After 11 hours of togetherness, we need some Dan-and-Hannah-ness. That means a glass of wine in front of our gas fireplace.
Just after Owen awakes (he’s our early bird), he and Hannah cut up honey dew melon. Playing with our wooden train set and a variety of Hess trucks, Owen and Max have come to expect adventures when they come to Omi and Poppa’s. While I take charge of the morning adventures, Hannah takes the afternoon.
Just before 10A, I get the boys in their car seats and head for adventure #1, the Kittery Community Center and its elevated track above the basketball court.
As we enter the town facility, Karate Kids are going through their moves as they progress towards the coveted Black Belt on the basketball court itself. Watching intently, Owen and Max press themselves to the glass window, aware that their local cousins are also into ka-rah-tay. I milk the karate watching for as long as possible, knowing every minute away gives Hannah more time on her own.
Soon Owen asks to go up to the track where the two boys can’t get enough of running on the hard rubber oval. After twenty minutes of steady Usain Bolt-ing it, Owen and Max are unaware that the KCC’s custodian has come over to me to say that the track is for walking, not running. My bad.
Out the door, we head three miles north on coastal route 103 to the home of my ping pong buddy, George Derby for adventure #2. Last summer, George invited us to his place so Owen and Max could find sea glass. Looking for an excuse to extend our morning, I drive to George’s place to see if he is home so the boys can thank him for the sea glass they found.
Upon arrival with George in his driveway, I roll down the car windows, which cues Owen and Max to bellow, THANK YOU FOR THE SEA GLASS. With George’s encouragement, we return to the shoreline to look again for more sea glass this late fall day. Thanks to the Seacoast’s top sea glass finder (George!), the boys hit the jackpot.
Finding white and green sea glass for Owen and Max, George lets us know that blue is the rarest of sea glassi on the coast of Maine. In addition, thanks to a recent 60 mph wind and rain storm, a lobster buoy washed up on his shore. Generously, George gives it to the boys.
Already noon, we head for adventure #3, the York Public Library, where Owen and Max rush downstairs to the wooden train sets. Later, with the boys snuggled up to me, I read A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems. It’s a fun read for kids and adults alike. (Also consider another Mo Willems book, I Really Like Slop, about the further adventures of Gerald, the elephant, and Piggy.)
Soon home to Chases Pond Road well after 1P, I have given Hannah 3+ hours and me the morning of my dreams. After lunch, Owen and Max play with the Hess Trucks and with the miniatures in Hannah’s shadow box, but never, never a nap.
By 245P, Hannah is out for her adventures with the boys. First, to Wendy’s in Portsmouth, NH for Frosty’s with gift certificates from the boys’ Auntie Robyn. This trip is followed by an hour playing on the living room carpet at our friend Mandy’s place in Kittery.
After dinner of meatballs, corn, and crunchy flakes in blackberry yogurt, we read to them, but only briefly because…the grandparents of no naps have done it again. The boys are fried and asleep by 7P. Hannah and I are living the dream having grandsons in the area. That said, we are in bed by 815P!
Nota Bene – Thanks to my sister Patty and cousin Eileen for the pictures of Hazel and Harry
Since that November day, Hannah and I have had a December as well as a January 24 hours with Owen and Max. I bring you pictures from those days together.
In December 2017:
In January 2018: