Memory Gifts: Yesterday, tomorrow and Today

The summer wind whispers my name and the sun’s rays beckon to me. I ask my family if they want to go on a nature walk. My daughter Heidi, her two sons, and my youngest granddaughter hike along. We enter the woods near our northern Wisconsin cabin.

We ample down a deer trail until we spot a clump of blueberry bushes. I show my family the spot where I looked up from picking the perfectly ripe fruit only to see a black bear also enjoying the goodness. Startled, we assessed one another, found no reason for fear, and on cue, turned and walked separate ways.

My granddaughter, daughter, and I pause to pick the yellow and orange snap-dragons, nicknamed butter-and-eggs. We pinch the sides of these showy flowers and make the lips open their dragon-like “mouths” revealing the deep orange or yellow color inside.

We emerge from the woods, pass a frog swamp, and discover a wildflower meadow. I pluck a mullen plant, and stroke its fuzzy, pale green leaves. I tell my grandchildren how it can be used as toilet paper. My older grandson, Jay, crinkles his nose at the thought.

I pause to reflect on whether any of these moments—bear story, pinching snapdragons, or toilet paper fact—will stick in my grandchildren's memories. I vow to collect memories today. I plan on pulling them out on future special days and sharing them like rare gifts.

I watch as my six-year-old grandson, Mason, creeps toward the edge of the woods where he’s spotted a sleek doe. He tiptoes toward her, and she continues to watch him. He can nearly touch her. Anxious to share the story, he turns, eyes wide, and runs back to us, as graceful as a deer. I add the moment to my collection.

As we walk along, I enjoy the perfume of sun-warmed pine needles. My daughter spots wintergreen leaves. As her grandmother once did for her, she plucks some to bring home and brew into a tea.

We return to the cabin. While my daughter heads to the kitchen, I watch my grandsons paddling out to the swim raft and zipping down the slide. My memory collection grows.

At an unvoiced signal, our four pet ducks, not wanting to miss the fun, zip around too, diving underwater and popping back up. It’s clear to me they want to join in. A downy cream and brown feather floats on the water. Mason swims over, retrieves it, and brings it to me. “Here, Grammy, you should keep this.”

“I will, Mason.” My memory box is wonderfully full. Such a gift.

I watch for the bald eagle flying overhead with a fish in its talons, hoping to share the sight with the grandchildren, but it doesn’t appear today. The eagle sighting was yesterday’s gift.

We towel off and dress. After wandering around, we spot puffballs. The grandsons want to stomp on them, but the spores don’t mature until fall, so the powdery effect isn’t fun yet. Stomping the ripened puffballs will be tomorrow’s gift.

My daughter calls us in to eat. The smell of baked blueberry pie greets us at the door. She serves the wild mint tea along with the pie. The family sits down to eat. This visit will be too short, and soon we’ll need to return to our separate lives. I savor the memory, as sweet as the mint tea and blueberry pie. Family time together. That is today’s gift.

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