Bike Camp was last week. Everyday from 9am to 5pm my eight-year-old grandson Grant,* in the company of fifteen or so other children, was riding his 7-speed bicycle up and down man-made hills and over several miles of mountain trails. As usual we always arrived early, because in Grant’s world if we’re not early, we’re late. In this respect, my two grandsons couldn’t be more different. Five-year-old Victor, who I’ve no doubt will be going by “Vic” before he reaches high school, is as unconcerned about punctuality as ducks are about rain. Since we had at least fifteen minutes to wait each morning after checking-in and stashing Grant’s well-stocked backpack (lunch, snacks, extra socks, and rain gear), and since there is nothing quite as inviting as a sunny morning in the high Rockies, we waited outside.
One spectacular morning, we decided to try out the plastic Adirondack-style chairs on the deck facing the bike hills. (I know we have very short summers and very long winters, but a plastic Adirondack chair–no matter how practical–just seems wrong, doesn’t it?) The sky was a brilliant blue, smooth as a piece of satin stretched from horizon to horizon, and completely clear except for a long, thin snag from the white contrail of a jet passing miles over our heads. I’ve lived in the mountains most of my life, and I’ve never tired of the vast blue dome of sky that covers this world on a sunny day. In early summer, against this backdrop of sky, the evergreen covered mountains are greener than ever. With irregular streaks and patches of the almost neon green of newly leafed aspen groves tucked in the dark purple shadows, the mountainsides seem to be showing off their spring colors, daring every camera and paintbrush around to replicate this moment.
Between the deck and the bike hills, there is an enormous expanse of lawn. Just like the irresistible invitation of a blue sky, everyday the lure of the lawn is too big a temptation for Victor. The deck is surrounded by a gravelled area and a stone wall about a foot high where Victor would sit, but not sit still, banging his little legs against the wall until he was overwhelmed by the need to run. There was no point in calling him back; I knew he wouldn’t hear me until he reached the edge of the lawn. Victor is all motion and determination, athletic as he can be…and deaf when he wants to be.
That determination was apparent when he was learning to ice skate last year. Wearing a hockey jersey many sizes too big, and with his feet scrambling for balance only to land him on his backside again and again, he looked like a tiny Ice Capades clown. I never stopped laughing, and Victor never stopped smiling. Every time he came over to the bench his big blue eyes were dancing, and there was an ear-to-ear grin beneath his masked hockey helmet, true joy spread all over his face.
One morning I brought pieces of watermelon to munch on while we waited. Sitting at a square metal picnic table with a bench attached to each side, I placed the clear plastic container of watermelon in the center of the table. With the sun lighting my grandsons and the bright red chunks of watermelon sitting on a Christmas green picnic table, I had created a perfect holiday tableaux–if I’d thought to bring my camera. Bits of sunlight sparkled on Grant’s blonde hair, while a khaki-colored sun hat covered brown-haired Victor’s new buzz cut. Their lips were glistening with watermelon juice, and their cheeks were a rosy glow in the morning sun. Both boys have their Mom’s big blue eyes, almost the same blue as the sky, and just as bright. They are children and brothers, so their high-energy world is full of hijinks and squabbles that can push even doting grandmothers too far on occasion, but at moments like this one at the picnic table, they are also perfect.
A minute or so before 9am, the parking lot began sprouting children and bicycles, as a variety of cars, trucks, and SUVs delivered the rest of the bike campers. Our peaceful mountain mornings ended with a sudden explosion of shouting and laughing kids. Wearing a wild assortment of T-shirts, shorts, and bike helmets, they were a colorful group as they began playing around the bike rack. Only their skinny arms and legs looked somewhat uniform, by mid-week all tanned and sporting a similar collection of band-aids and bruises. Victor and I watched as Grant and his friends hopped on their bikes and followed their teen-aged leaders onto the biking hills, then we started toward the parking lot, with Victor reminding us both that next year he will be going to bike camp, too.
*Author’s Note: When writing about family, I do not use their real names.