The next generation came to visit today and I've had great fun. They arrived late morning and almost before Grandson number 1 got out of the car, we had things for him to do. He swapped his shoes for the welly boots that he keeps here and put on his special anorak that I bought for him to wear when he's at 'Grandma's Farm' and off we went out into the paddock to see the ducks and chickens.
He also admired the lambs that are gambolling around the fields that surround our little smallholding. They've just got to that delightful age where they run up and down the fields as though they are racing in the 'lambolympics'. And, right on cue, Paul the Sheep (the farmer who works the fields around us) came out on his tractor to start scarifying one of the fields on his big green tractor. You couldn't have written a more rural scene if you'd tried!
All this impressed my four (and three quarters!) year old grandson suitably and I left him in the garden with Mr J while I went inside to greet my daughter, her partner and Grandson number 2, who I haven't seen for a month. He seems to have grown a huge amount in that time. Now five months old, he is a robust, smiley boy who grinned at me from across the kitchen while I finished preparing lunch.
I glanced out of the window to see what they were up to and smiled. There were squeals of delight coming from the garden as Mr J pushed Grandson 1 on his toy tractor up and down the length of the paddock. So as the lambs raced in one direction behind the fence, my men, the young and the young at heart, were racing in another direction on our side of the fence. At least one of them is going to sleep well tonight!
I remember very clearly as a four or five year old spending time with my father in the garden. The secret we shared as he taught me how to squeeze a snapdragon flower to see the inside of it and the joy of discovering that you could pop a fuchsia flower bud so that it revealed it's inner petals and beauty. Of course, as I grew older I realised that our secret about those special flowers was known by so many people, but for years I thought that it was something that only my father and I knew.
I also remember my brother or sister discovering a bird's nest that had either fallen out of one of the old apple trees in the garden or that a bird had made on the floor at the base of the tree. I remember my sister being upset because dad was mowing the lawn and she was worried that he would mow over the nest.
There were walks along the lanes near our house where my parents would lift us up to see inside a bird's nest, where we found empty egg shells on the ground and learnt about different coloured eggs being laid by different types of birds and afternoons with jam jars with string handles to scoop water from the local stream or pond to find tadpoles and, if we were really lucky minnows or sticklebacks.
We can't give my grandsons those particular experiences and memories because times are different, those ancient hedgerows have disappeared, the streams are gone or are full of decaying litter and there are too many cars whizzing along the lanes for it to be safe to allow small children to explore the hedgerows for themselves.
But with his parents, we help them discover the wonders of nature and when they are here they can explore freely within the safety of our garden. They can watch the new hedge that we've planted grow and in a few years time, it should be home to some birds. I have given each of the boys a tree in the hedge that they can track the progress of with each visit they make. We plan to create a small wildlife pond that we will cover with a sturdy metal grid mesh large enough to allow frogs access but small enough to prevent the children from falling into it. In a couple of weeks time, when our incubating eggs have hatched, they can come and see the small chicks and then watch how they grow into young hens.
It is this type of memory that I'd like to give my grandchildren; special moments shared with us enjoying the world around us. I don't want to be the grandparent that showered them with gifts of technology, sweets or trips to the cinema (although those are fun too), but I would like them to have memories of discovery and adventures.