Turning Boys into Men (Tuesday’s Tell All)

I try to do my part in preparing the next generation; in this case turning boys into men. This year’s Spring Break was an excellent opportunity; it was just me and the grandsons.

I was excited as I made the rounds [about a forty mile round-trip] to pick them up. As I drove east I was imagining what sort of fun and informative games I might play with these boys; after all they aren’t ‘little boys’ any more at 10, 12 and 14 years of age. I decided to ad-lib.

Three and a half hours later we arrived home (aka Nana & Papa’s). Yeah, what should have been a forty-five minute drive [round-trip] took a little longer because I let them direct me. When one of them said turn right/left I did – even if it was [obviously] wrong. It was an adventure and we didn’t end up in Alaska so I count it as a win.

“What are we going to do Nana?” the trio immediately began chirping like a nest of baby birds when we arrived safely.

“Hmm…” They had often talked about camping alone in the woods around our house. Of course they had heard stories of their parent’s escapades while growing up here in the boondocks. I mulled it over, reasoned with myself and concluded: we didn’t end up in Alaska and they are pretty reasonable kids. Surely they are mature enough now to sleep in the woods without supervision.   “Y’all are going to pick a spot anywhere within the ten-acre fence and camp out.” It probably sounded more like a command than an option but they were ecstatic!

The middle one had a brief anxiety attack, “I didn’t come prepared. I don’t have my sleeping bag – I didn’t bring my knife.”

The youngest one said, “So – you don’t need any of that! If you have to poop instead of cutting up your underwear you can use a leaf.” (His uncle taught him that.)

The eldest one was pumped, “I’ve got some Gatorade and sunflower seeds. We just have to manage our resources’. How many life-lines do we get?”

My daughter was listening on the phone, “Oh my gosh I thought they were just camping? Tell him three.” She cackled. (I don’t know where she gets her wicked humor.)

Yep, the #1 grandson went straight up survivor mode. I don’t know if he thought this was one of Nana’s games or he watches a lot of “reality” television; either way I went with it, gave them three life-lines and giggled to myself, Bwahaha this is going to be way more fun than I imagined.

“This is what you have.” I explained as I laid out three dusty web-laden sleeping bags, two coolers, a sack of food, a lighter and a gallon of water. “Make it last and good luck.”

They picked out their camping spot and began gathering wood. I went back to the house, closed the doors and pretended to ignore them as the hours ticked slowly by.

I truly thought they would be banging on the door and begging to come in by nightfall but nope; they made a cozy camp by the pond and had a nice fire going. They were so happy it made me sad smile.

After midnight I gave up spying on them, said a prayer and went to bed. The following morning I was sure they would be sound asleep in the living room but the house was empty. So I grabbed my camera and sneaked through the woods.

Then what to my wondering eyes did appear but three little men all drained of their cheer. Tee-hee-hee, oops I mean poor babies.

Boys 1

By dawn the fire had [literally and figuratively] gone out.

I continued to let them believe it was a survival game so they bargained for another gallon of water and a garden spade. By noon they were discussing if they should use their last life-line  for a pillow, a thicker blanket for the trailer they were sleeping on or a Pepsi.

Boys 2

They chose the Pepsi.

The #2 grandson had packed bubbles. He and the #3 grandson entertained themselves while the #1 grandson prayed rested.

Boys 3

I hung out with them for a while, chased bubbles and asked, “How is the survival game going?”

Boys 4

#1 grandson tried to smile but he didn’t have the energy.  “We still have plenty of food.” he replied. He was not going to quit or admit it was not so fun anymore.

“Well what if I said I am calling the game off – what if I said you boys have to stay in the house tonight. What would you say to that?”

Boys 5

“I’d say thank you!” he jumped to his feet with tears relief on his face. #3 grandson gave a smirk humble yet proud smile and #2 grandson disappeared inside before I could take his picture.

Thank goodness they don’t read blogs. 😉


The Last Man Standing

We went for the annual camp-out this past weekend. I expected a small crowd and a somber mood considering it was our first gathering on the lake since my dear aunt left this world last June and this was her thing, she loved it.

Only thirty five or forty of us were in attendance so the crowd was small but the mood was far from somber. I should have known better than to think that.

We do not dwell on sorrow. No, we mustn’t… we cannot.  And we did not. Instead we laughed and reminisced about our rambunctious youth spent on the shores of Navarro Mills.  A time when our numbers were more, a time when strength and stamina ran hard through our veins, a time when we were too confident to recognize the gift.

Remembering makes us aware of our weakness but we remember anyway because it also brings us comfort. These are my memories:

I remember tents dotting the landscape, fried eggs on an open campfire, horse shoes clanking, blankets of bluebonnets, chasing birds along the banks and walking for miles in the sweltering heat. Swimming in the murky water, boat rides, the smell of roasted marshmallows and fishing along the shoreline. I remember crystal clear nights and counting stars until we fell asleep, long walks to the toilet, frigid dawns stealing slumber, and anxiously awaiting the next sunrise so we could do it all again.

With nostalgia I watch our children and grandchildren between sneaking stares at the last man standing (my father’s baby brother) and hope they understand what this gathering silently implies, these things you must remember.