You could hear them long before you could see them. A red cap finally became visible through the trees and brush, way down near the creek and deep in the ravine. Before long, the three adventure seekers were in full sight, steadily climbing over the rocks on the steep slope.
Mary Lou and I kept our grandchildren, Will and Laura, this weekend while their parents visited the Masters in Augusta on Sunday’s final round. Our offer to take their tickets so they could stay home with their kids was strongly rejected.
It was my mother’s 86th birthday, so we loaded up in Auburn and drove two hours to my sister’s home in Roswell. The kids talked, played, and sang songs the entire two hour trip. Did you know there are children’s songs with more verses than “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”?
It turns out my nephew, Stephen, and his fiancé, Mandi, also visited for lunch and birthday festivities. This would make Stephen my grandchildren’s first cousin once removed, or back in the old days their second cousin. A “once removed” cousin is a story for another day.
Laura and Will are eight and four years old, while Stephen is 27. It honestly did not seem to matter, as Stephen led his young charges on an hour long trek through the ravine, down the creek and along a long abandoned trail.
They saw seven deer in the middle of the day, stumbling upon some of the save havens for deer that manage to live in the middle of six million people. They also watched a salamander hatch from an egg, joining its hours old siblings and the not so happy mother.
This is the sort of natural history lesson that you cannot learn in school. The younger kids’ imaginations were in overdrive as they envisioned themselves as explorers, soldiers and who knows what else.
The three cousins took a break once they finally returned to civilization. A five minute break, with strawberries and water, and the younger two were ready to go again. Their fearless leader tricked them into another game where they rode a tarp down a hill on fresh pine straw.
I emphasized “fresh” pine straw because my brother-in-law had spread it out just the day before. He never said a word as he watched all his hard work swept down to the bottom of the hill.
Stephen has always been a great guy. He was a fun nephew to be around as a kid and still is. He has grown into a fine young man and like me, he is obviously marrying above himself.
However, this past Sunday I watched him become a hero to two young cousins that don’t really know him that well. Plus, he gave these two worn out grandparents a brief respite after two whirlwind days.
Will was asleep as we passed the Atlanta airport headed home. Laura watched a video without saying much of a word. We had early baths because they were absolutely filthy, always a sign of a good time. They devoured some hot dogs and were asleep in record time.
All in all, a great visit with a celebration of a noteworthy birthday, a great visit with my sister’s family, and a real time adventure with cousins of different ages. I think Laura and Will have learned another good lesson about family; there is nothing like a cousin, no matter how removed they are.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org