Here’s a story I think many of my generation will relate to.
Instead of hiring a babysitter my parents took me most everywhere they went. My father and mother had a way of making it fun. I remember going to Brownie’s garage with my father once when I was 5. He drove our 1956 Ford onto the lift for an oil change. As my father stepped out of the car, he said I could stay in the car.
The mechanic started lifting the car. The sensation sitting in the car as it rose was exciting. The view from so high in the air was a new experience. I looked down on those below listening to the men talk.
A trip to the dump on the Dump Road on Saturday mornings was another fun thing to do. There were always men there my father knew. Pawing over discarded junk, as my father talked to his friends was a lot of fun. I found an old Edison phonograph there once.
Fast forward to when I had two kids of my own Shawn and Carrie. I took them everywhere. Most readers will know I’m an antiques dealer. I would take one or sometimes both kids with me when I went “picking.” These trips covered all of Vermont, most of New Hampshire, and some of eastern New York.
On these trips, there was a lot of downtime. I made it fun by listening to the radio. When a song came on that I liked, I would tell the kids who it was, Rolling Stones or Neil Young as an example. We reached the point that when a song came on I would ask, “Who’s that?” Both kids could answer correctly.
I extended this approach with most everything I did. Both kids got over being shy around strangers. I remember walking up to a house, knocking on the door, and asking to buy antiques. In the 1970s, the old ladies loved children and would welcome us into their homes.
Sometimes Shawn or Carrie would sit at the kitchen table eating cookies and talking with the old lady while I searched the attic. I treated both of my kids as adults, not children. I made us a team and shared everything. “Shawn (or Carrie), we really need to make some money today.” They understood the urgency.
After the truck was loaded, we would discuss how well we had done and how much we might make as we searched for another house to pick.
Both kids went to Brimfield Antiques Market with me when no more than 8 years old. Here they met collectors and dealers from all walks of life. All of these experiences and countless others helped prepare my kids for their adult lives. Kids’ minds are like a sponge, they will absorb as much as you can feed them. Just make it fun.
Fast forward to this past week
Shawn now lives in North Carolina with his wife Paula and his daughters Josie and Samantha. Last week Shawn came home for a visit. With him, he brought his 10-year old daughter Samantha. I don’t see a lot of my granddaughters so one day last week I took Samantha with me on a trip to Weston.
I took our new book, “Pictorial History of Chester, Andover, Weston and Londonderry” with me. Now I don’t know if she’s going to enjoy the day or not. Our first stop was the intersection of Main and Grafton Streets in Chester. I showed her in the book how this view looked in 1910. Next we went to the footbridge. Moderate interest I thought. Let’s make this fun.
Where we came down the mountain into Weston, there’s an old cemetery on the left (sorry I don’t know the name). I pulled over, stopped, and told Samantha “the Patch family is buried here, do you want to go look?”
“Yes” she said.
I didn’t know what to expect. Soon Samantha was walking up and down the rows of graves by herself looking for Patch gravestones. Now I could tell she was enjoying herself.
Our next stop was the Green in Weston. On the Green is a granite monument to Weston men who died in the Civil War. One of those men was our ancestor Ransom M. Patch. When Samantha saw “R.M. Patch” on the monument, I knew had her attention. I told her what I knew about Ransom. We then went over to the Weston Town Office to do some research on the Patch family.
We were greeted by Judy Poissant who was very helpful. Judy showed us how to navigate the card files for births, deaths, and marriages. Within no time Samantha was proficient at searching the card files.
Pretty soon she said, “Grampa, here’s a Patch who was born on my birthday.”
“What’s the first name?” I asked.
Samantha replied, “Patch No-name.” Samantha asked what that meant. Judy told her the baby was not given a name because she died at birth. When we finished, we went over to the library to donate a copy of our pictorial history book.
The lady in the library asked me to sign the book. After I signed it, I had Samantha sign under my name. When we walked back to the car, I told Samantha that would be the only book we both signed. If she visited Vermont 20 years from now, she could stop at the library, see the book, and reminisce about this day. So the connection I was looking for was made. I look forward to doing more with all my grandchildren this summer. Carrie has twin boys who are just about old enough to go fishing.