Watching grandchildren

It will not surprise even the most callous reader to note that the holiday season brings renewal in many ways. The 2008 season catapulted to the top of my list of renewal in a most unexpected way. It is not important for this narrative to explore the background, but for a number of years I had been estranged from my two children, their spouses and six children. Three of those young people provided that gift of hope and family in a way they could not appreciate.
My mother still lives in the house where I grew up. The house is perched on top of a severe drop off to a wooded area and creek running through the valley. As a boy, I spent many hours following that creek to the spot where it joins the Potomac River below Great Falls. We chased frogs, snakes, raccoons and any other wildlife that was not easily frightened of small boys. We swung across the creek clinging to the sturdy wild grape vines. We balance our way up and down the trunks of fallen trees. Other times we would skip stones or build dams. We learned many of natures lessons first hand and trudged up the hill to the house only to be immediately stripped of our muddy clothes and sent to the bath tub.
As the family gathered on a rare balmy day for December, my three grandsons (Raymond, Sean and Eli) made short work of greeting the throng of adults and sped out the door and down that hill toward the creek. I stood in the drive way and watched my childhood return as Raymond bounced down that incline with the certain indestructibility of youth. Sean lagged behind to help his younger brother who chose to tackle the trip down the hill on the seat of his pants rather than trip over the vines and fallen limbs. I was taken back to my own trips down that hill, facing down the dangers of a natural world and assisting those with shorter legs who had trouble keeping up.
Within minutes, Raymond was balancing his way across the creek on the hulk of a fallen oak. His shouted warnings to his little brothers not to try his daring crossing, were followed by his whoops of discovery. He had found what were surely the tracks of a raccoon and soon all were engaged in trying to find where the creature hung his cap and mask. More than 50 years rolled down that hill after my grandsons as I understood every moment of their adventure as they lived it just as I did all those years before.
In those short moments, I could see the connection of generations, understand three young men I hardly knew and beam with pride over the heritage that my family has established. More than anything else, there is that moment when the innocence of a child helps remind the older generations of the reason why there are holiday traditions of family. Is this the kind of magic that can only happen during that season?
I doubt that Sean will ever know how much his caring for his brother paved the way for the time his father and I spent later that day and in the days to come. Years of hurt feelings do not go away in a day or a moment, but the path to making them better can be seen in seasons past reflected onto seasons future.

Lee McGavin Leander, Texas, USA 2008

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