I recently baked a birthday cake with my four-year-old grandson, and after we had iced it, I offered one of the beaters to him. Because he has always been on a sugar-restricted diet, he gave me a quizzical look as if to say, “Really?” I had cleared it with his mother of course, so when I told him that, he readily accepted my offer and trotted off with his treat as if he couldn’t quite believe his good fortune.
He sat with that beater for the better part of 15 minutes, his little tongue manoeuvring in exquisite concentration. When he returned it, it was spotlessly clean and he beamed at me with an icing-rimmed mouth. He did not ask for the other beater; he was satisfied just to have experienced one. The contented expression on his face as he scooted off made me think that every little kid should enjoy licking a beater at least once in their childhood! I have no doubt he will remember the experience for a long time.
As I have aged, I realize it is the simple pleasures in one’s childhood that come to mind the easiest and still hold meaning even after many decades and life experiences have passed by. In my own childhood, I vividly recall diving and huddling under my bed covers listening with a mixture of both trepidation and awe at the frequent thunderstorms that seemed to shake the entire house. I can still feel the goosebumps that rippled my young flesh just thinking of the power the heavens released during those storms.
I can also easily recall riding my bike for the very first time without training wheels, my dad jogging alongside just in case I toppled over. It felt like a moment of profound accomplishment to a seven-year-old child, and I can still savour the sense of pride and accomplishment I felt that day.
And how could I ever forget our annual family road trips? Our trusty station wagon was packed to the brim with books, games, blankets, and pillows with which my siblings and I spent hours amusing ourselves.
Perhaps my fondest memory is that of cuddling with my mother; I can still recall the sense of warmth and security I sought from her and the feeling of belonging her closeness instilled in me. I would often interlock our pinky fingers—I remember that distinctly.
With my own children, I’m sure they can easily recall our own family camping trips where they learned the art of toasting a marshmallow over a campfire without torching it, or how to fashion a walking stick. Equally memorable, I’m sure, were all the camping weekends when we played board games hunkered around a picnic table in inclement weather!
No doubt, my sons can easily call to mind all the afternoons we spent feeding ducks at Beacon Hill Park—and how to do so without getting mobbed, no less.
Perhaps one of their most enduring memories is picking berries in the long, lazy days of summer vacation. As I’m sure they can attest—I took berry picking season very seriously as I stocked our freezer for the winter months with what we picked. Equipped with an ice cream bucket that they were supposed to fill, my sons spent their time instead eating their fill of berries, playing tag or hide and seek amid the rows of bushes, or pelting each other with the berries they found on the ground (as boys are wont to do). In short, they were no help at all, but they loved those outings in the countryside as much as I did and they eagerly agreed to “help” me every year.
The universality of favourite childhood memories is not surprising. Who could forget tossing coins in a fountain and then pestering a parent to empty their pockets for more change? Or splashing in puddles—with or without boots on?! Or jumping on the bed despite parental admonishment not to? It’s hard not to think of these memories without the tug of a smile. They are so simple and yet so memorable.
It is the time we invest in these simple pleasures that make them so precious; time with our children, grandchildren and loved ones. A good friend of mine who ran an in-home daycare for many years, told me once about a little boy who upon learning that his grandmother was going to pick him instead of his father, asked: “My grandma who buys me things or my grandma who plays with me?” When my friend told him which grandmother was coming, he was happy it was the grandmother who played with him.
So when I think of all the things I’d love my grandson to see and do, I try to keep in mind that it is often the simplest of pleasures that will truly hold the most meaning for him in the years to come. I have no doubt he will fondly reminisce about his sleepover weekends with Nonna (complete with pancake making), afternoons spent at the beach digging for buried treasure, and visits to the library for that next favourite book.