08 September 2008

This could be the last time

We spent the weekend camping, only about an hour away but we definitely felt like we got a break from the usual routines. It's good to take those breaks, to go and hang out for a while. To settle in and talk and play and eat and plan and joke around together. I have a friend in a group who has had a tradition of going camping together with others in her group yearly, and my friend is bitterly disappointed that so many of her peers no longer want to camp. I understand her feelings -- I would be sad if I didn't go at least a couple of times a year. (My in-laws really had that one figured out -- they took their kids camping and roadtripping all the time. My father, too, knew of the natural wonders that awaited us in our own backyard; my mother was unfamiliar with the entire notion of family camping as I grew up knowing it.)

Fourth of July Campground kept coming up in conversations over this past weekend, because one of our camping party had just been there a week earlier. The talk about that lovely spot brought back memories of a picnic with my grandmother when I was around 10.

My grandmother had driven to our house from her home in Littleton, a rare event in itself, as we usually trekked to her for Sunday visits and dinners and celebrations. At our house, we loaded up the car with food and drinks and blankets and piled into her massive, white Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible, the roof down. We laughed and kidded and slid around the curves on the red leatherette bench seats as we went up Boulder Canyon, passed Nederland, and then turned off the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

It was a time when I was realizing there was a lot I liked about being outside. I was warming to Colorado (having grown up in both Colorado and California) and found it a thrill to be up in the mountains with my grandmother, Oma, and my family and aunt and uncles, even if she moved slowly and couldn't walk very far (I remember swollen ankles being a perpetual problem for her). We spread out our picnic blanket in a flat, grassy clearing, and everyone scurried around, helping Oma get comfortable. I remember the greens of the wild grasses, the rosebushes, the quaking aspen leaves, and the scent of the fire my father and brother built from the fallen pine branches and logs we'd gathered.

I don't remember anything substantive about that day: no revelatory conversations, nor secret habits revealed on a hike. I just remember a joyful sense of being in the sun, being in the right place with the right people at the right time.

Just a couple of years later, Oma died in a car accident in Ireland, when my aunt was driving. That might have been the last time, then, that Oma had enjoyed an excursion in the mountains. I missed her this weekend, all over again.

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