My grandmother passed away several years ago. To her, I owe a great debt. When she was alive, I referred to her affectionately as “Granny.” From a young age, I would frequently stay with Granny each summer for a couple of weeks during school break. She lived in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York – near the end of a long, steadily climbing mountain road. During those weeks, I would pick berries, hike in the woods, play card games, go camping, read books, eat ice cream, and climb trees. As a young boy, I loved to climb trees – the higher the better. I would disappear into the branches and leaves, reaching a point where I could not be seen, only heard. I’d shout down to her, “Granny, I’m almost at the top.” And she’d reply, “Well, why don’t you stop when you get there.”
Granny and I had a couple of activities that we especially liked to do together. One was to go “camping.” To get to her camp we had to walk into the woods along an overgrown dirt trail that she said was a logging road at one time. Her camp was a simple wooden cabin with no running water or electricity. It had two main rooms – one a sleeping and sitting room – the other a kitchen. In the kitchen was a cast iron wood stove – made for heating and cooking. It was on this stove that she cooked some of the best breakfasts that I ever had in my life. Blueberry pancakes made with fresh berries that we picked were my absolute favorite.
At night we would burn oil lamps and read books by their light. We would read stories like Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. After reading we would retire to the bunk beds – where I would sleep sounder than I have at any other time in my life. In the morning I’d grab a pail and head out to a fresh water spring that was near the cabin. I’d fill the bucket with water and return to the cabin. Often, upon my return, I would be greeted with the incredible aroma of pancakes cooking on the stove. I don’t recall anyone but me and Granny going to that camp. It was like it was hers and mine alone.
Another favorite activity of ours was to go berry picking in the nearby fields. Blackberries were my favorite berries to pick. We would go to the top of Edwards Hill Road, out past the old farm house where Mom was born, and there in the fields was some of the finest berry picking that could be found. There were always plenty of berries – and later that night I could count on eating blackberry dumplings until I was ready to burst. I can’t recall a specific date or the exact time of day, but I do remember a moment – out in a blackberry patch – picking berries with Granny – on a gloriously sunny summer day – when I thought to myself – there is no place else on earth I’d rather be right now.
Since Granny died, I’ve thought a lot about the summer days I spent with her. I think about how she made all things possible. If I was playing Batman, she provided the cape. If I was playing house, she provided the dishes. If I was thirsty after coming down from the trees, she provided the lemonade. If I was reading a book, she provided the silence. She didn’t worry about me getting her towels dirty when I used them as a cape and ran around the backyard shouting, “To the bat cave!” She didn’t stop me from climbing the tree for fear I might fall down and break something. Nothing was impossible when I was with her. Give me a cape and mask, and I could save the world. Give me a tree to climb, and I could be on top of the world. I was on top of the world when I was with her. I felt important. I felt like I mattered to someone. I honestly don’t think there is anything a child needs more than that. Thank you Granny!
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