So we are open to ideas on how to entertain, educate and occupy the hours of a week with an almost-eight-year-old boy—-our grandson, Oliver. (Please don’t call him Ollie. He is grown up now, you know.)
We are situated, thankfully, in what is a great spot for outdoorsy stuff, though mid-March is not the perfect time for building a dam in the creek; constructing a twig fort; or turning rocks and logs for insects and salamanders and the like. But I imagine we’ll do some or all of that anyway.
So here’s the list so far:
Make a garden-duff infusion with some barley tossed in. Let it sit in stacking dish of rainwater for a couple of days. Examine under the microscope. Look at moss samples for water bears.
Related: give him his own magnifying glass
find the perfect hiking stick and cut it to the size he will be in two years
wood-burn his initials on it with a magnifying glass (wear sunglasses)
drill a hole near the top and make a boot-lace lanyard
take it to him when he lives in Knoxville
Watch a friend make a wooden bowl (for Oliver)
Watch a friend make a whistle from a piece of rhododendron for Oliver to take home.
Gather pine cones and twigs for the wood stove
watch the pine cones explode into flame in the wood stove. Let him add them one at a time to the front of the fire wearing thick leather stove gloves.
Go visit the neighbors who have two of every farm animal known to man, AND the Great Wall of Goose Creek
Go for a walk at The Other Place so he’ll know something his folks don’t about where we’ll be this time next year.
Connect with a friend who has a five year old son who is not shy
Get him some creek boots
See if great-grandma will tell stories of when she was a little girl (yeah right–see if we can stop her!)
Let him use my camera to take pictures, then write out or record the story that the picture tells
Read to him at bedtime from the books we read to his dad as a boy, and send the book home with him
Hopefully the cat will warm up and be playful. He is around dogs at home but could learn a thing or two about how a cat is not a dog.
Let him use the walkie talkie on the New Road
Give him a journal (pocket notebook) and help him record the things we do, ideas he has, stuff he wants to be sure and tell mom and dad
Find out what his favorite things are and help him dig wider and deeper
Play music on the guitar, accordion, keyboard. Instill interest in music.
Screen Time: Watch selected videos (like the one included in the first comment below) on the iPad or iMac. Use the iPad and iPencil for drawing, tracing, coloring a picture he chooses and send it to M&D
So that’s about we got at this point. I’m thinking we’ll probably run through 90% of this the first two days. Yikes! Gargle. Rinse. Repeat. So we are open to ideas from the Peanut Gallery.
Oliver has not been away from home before. He knows us only from our occasional and brief visits when they lived in Missouri. This will be a challenge for his adaptability, and ours, even as the house is under welcomed threat of being visited by potential buyers (who will have to overlook the Family Circus.) This too shall pass.
We are glad to be here yet. Oliver’s week with us could become an indelible memory; or it may, in twenty years, be one of those vague almost-memories that you “recall” only because you’ve been reminded of them over the intervening years. Those stories of others become what counts for your memories of forts and water bears, boots and long walks, and strangers that tried to make you comfortable in a strange land.
Except: you have that stick; those small boots; and a scrawled and worn little notebook and a picture you traced of a cat; and a bowl; and a whistle, and… Yeah, maybe there are true memories, like insects in amber, embedded in the mementos that tie the 2040 Oliver to a span of time and a place where his grandparents lived a little longer, in the spring of 2020.
Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.