My cellphone rang after 10 PM, as I put on soft pajamas. Screen said it was my Chicago son.
“Hi, what’s up?” I forced a chipper voice, my intuition light flashing red.
“Sorry it’s late, Mom… but we need help!”
I sat down. My heart hammered, fearful for my four-year-old grandchild, afraid Covid-19 caught their household. Did my son get laid off? Most calls from him during the pandemic weren’t joyful.
He continued, “My wife and I are going nuts in our cramped townhouse. Working virtually plus taking care of our son is tough! Can’t go anywhere in Chicago with this lockdown. That plus getting our place ready to sell makes everything impossible… We argue a lot.” His voice broke up, but not from a bad cell phone connection.
“We want to drive out and stay with you and Charlie (my husband) for a month, maybe more, and bring the dog, too.”
An hour later, I said good night, after talking through a plan to bring my son’s family to our upstate NY house. (That included everyone getting tested for Covid-19 and following CDC guidelines.) Two weeks later, they dragged into our driveway in their packed SUV, after almost 19 hours and 900 miles on the interstate.
A few days after our clan arrived, another four-year-old grandson and his parents joined the fun! Our New York City daughter also wanted to escape from their crowded townhouse with no backyard for their kiddo to play. Family #2 ended up overlapping time with Family #1, spending many extended weekends and a few full weeks together at our house.
Good thing we have 5 bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms, big double office, large kitchen, great room, huge deck, and an acre lot with interesting outdoor activities. We could accommodate everyone – even the dog.
The cousins loved being together. Living about 1,000 miles apart, they rarely spent more than a few days at each other’s house during special visits. While they played and did activities with Grandma and Grandpa, their parents could do their professional work uninterrupted, accomplishing much. We also prepared most meals and managed household tasks to free them up.
Every day was an adventure with our grandsons. Grandpa and I tumbled into our bed most evenings, falling asleep faster than the time it took to eat one of the kids’ homemade popsicles.
Here’s a one-minute video including some of our active days together:
This coming August, our family will be together again. Indeed, several aunts and uncles also want to join us for a few days. Some will base out of a nearby Airbnb, depending on everyone’s travel plans.
Being past the worst of the pandemic, we can add activities such as enjoying a nearby playground, amusement park, miniature golf course, local ice-cream shop, boat ride, some restaurant dining, and more without fear. With everyone vaccinated except our ineligible young grandsons, we expect to be masked in some public spaces. But mostly, we’ll be freer than we were last year.
The best benefit of “Camp Grandma & Grandpa” for us during last summer’s pandemic peak was precious time with our grandsons and their parents. We never shared this many weeks together with them since their own childhood… and they probably won’t be able to spend this much time together with us in the future.
The parents caught up on professional work. Family tensions lessened. The cousins bonded beautifully. Our Chicago family even sold their townhouse virtually while out-of-state. Then they started the process of buying a more spacious house in the suburbs. That included a backyard “to run around outside… like in NY.”
Was all this hard work? Yes, certainly. I’d be Pollyannaish if I said everything went smoothly all the time. But everybody put in effort to make it work, and I believe we became closer because of our treasured time together. These happy memories will linger long in my heart.
What have been some of your most cherished times with family members? Have you hosted a variation of “Camp Grandma & Grandpa”? Has the pandemic impacted your gathering with grandchildren? Have you considered writing a brief memoir like this as part of your own legacy writing?