Mother’s Day weekend was really busy with lots of fun family activities, so you would think that a nice trip to Charleston, SC would be a great way to relax and unwind, right? Maybe having a few oysters and a cocktail at the Amen Street Raw Bar before a lovely dinner at Fig. How ’bout taking a slow stroll through Charleston’s unique downtown before ascending to the Rooftop Bar at the Vendue Inn for a nightcap and the best view around…sounds wonderful, huh? Well, we didn’t do any of that. Nope, we’ll save all that for later because this trip was dedicated to all things grandkids, and there is no better place than Charleston for family fun.
On Thursday of last week, Helen (adorable wife and grandmother) and I loaded the bicycles on Sophie (pickup truck), threw a few small pieces of luggage in the back and headed for the coast. We arrived late that afternoon with no problems which was good because we needed to rest up for activities the next day. On Friday morning we were going with Cason, our three year old granddaughter, and our son, Collin, to an end-of-the-school year outing at a State Park. When morning came, we were up early, lunches packed, car loaded, and Bennett, our five year old granddaughter, dropped off at school. We were on our way to a busy day.
Charles Towne Landing State Historical Park was our destination for this day. This park is dedicated to preserving the original English settlement in Carolina. The park contains buildings and replica gardens similar to those built by the settlers. It also has a replica sailing vessel like those of that period. The vessel is open to visitors and staffed by volunteers who share information about merchant shipping in the late 1600’s.
We arrived and made our way to the other parents and children who were gathering in a picnic area. Looking through the crowd, it was easy to see that we were probably the only grandparents in the group. We were warmly welcomed by Cason’s teachers and met several of the parents. The children were nearly exploding with excitement. It was cute to see the T-shirts in different colors for each of the classes. After a few logistic matters were addressed by the school staff, we were off to the animal park. I love animal parks.
The first stop was at the Otter sanctuary. About four otters swam through shallow pools and water slides while the children giggled, pointed, and giggled some more. Otters are great entertainment. Our second stop was the home of a huge Black Bear. The children’s demeanor grew a bit more anxious. The bear was at a distance from us, but in plain view. After most of the children moved on, he came closer and let those who remained see his shiny black coat and how huge he was. I thought he was quite a handsome creature.
From the bear’s den, we moved through the bison, the turkey pen, the goat section, and even caught a glimpse of the Puma sitting in a hollowed out tree. He acknowledged our presence by flicking his tail at us. All of the animals in the park were found in the Carolinas at the time of the settlement, but many (bison, puma) were driven out as a result of the settlement and loss of habitat.
The one animal that seemed to arouse the most interest was a very nervous and very small striped skunk. The photo at the top of the page captures the children’s excitement when they discovered this little critter. I kept my distance, even though I’m certain that Skunkie had been de-fumed.
After touring the animal park, we returned to the picnic area to let the children run off a little more energy and let grandparents like us take pictures. Cason’s teacher, Miss Wesse, handed out diplomas to all her students, indicating that they were now able to move to the next level of pre-school. Cason seemed little impressed, but her grandfather was busting with pride.
It was still early on this beautiful morning, so Helen, Collin, and I walked to the replica sailing vessel moored in the small harbor. Cason rode on her Dad’s shoulders.
Volunteers were at the vessel to give tours and answer questions. I learned that the ships were used to haul timber to Barbados where it was used for firewood to make molasses and rum. The rum and molasses were loaded on the ships and transported to New York and Boston and traded for oxen and cattle needed by the settlers in Carolina. The cattle fed the settlers and the oxen were used to plow the fields and clear the land. As many as 14 cows would be kept in the hull which was shared with the crew. I couldn’t imagine living with 14 cows on a five day voyage. The youngest crew member usually had the task of cleaning anything left by the cattle (nuff said). Rather than dwell on that, we decided it was time for Cason and the grandparents to take a nap.
The next morning was soccer day for Bennett, our five year old. I was really pumped because of all the things I miss about raising our two boys — I miss sporting events the most. I especially miss the ages of around five to nine when they were learning the games while running around with wild excitement. I had hoped we would rekindle a little of that and I was not disappointed.
Bennett’s team is named the Cheetahs and most of the girls on the team are around age five. Today’s opponent is a team whose name I don’t remember, but some of the girls were a little older…and it showed. Bennett didn’t start because the team needed her to come off the bench and give everyone a spark. She really is good for someone who has only played for a year, and handled the very ball well when she played but, on this day, the Cheetahs were clearly overmatched and would have to settle for a moral victory. Our team played hard and held their heads high. They’ll get ‘em next time for sure.
When the final whistle blew the game to a stop, the parents formed two lines facing each other and created a tunnel for the teams to march through as they congratulated their opponent. It was a neat gesture. Next came refreshments and the Cheetahs loss was soon forgotten. You gotta love kids!
That afternoon we had family activities of a different type. Collin, our son and his wife, Austin, had recently moved into a new home on James Island Creek across from the main harbor in Charleston. As with any new home, there are more projects than the time to accomplish them, but we decided we had time to do a little landscaping, weeding, planting, and mulching in front of the house on this pretty Saturday. Helen and Collin did the planting, and I helped with the weeding and mulching. It didn’t take long and, in the end, the results were pleasing. Check off one more project.
Still not done for the day, Collin, Helen, and the girls went for a kayak ride in James Island Creek while I protected the dock against treacherous turtles and took pictures of the beautiful scenery and a passing paddle boarder.
Collin and Austin are blessed to be able to capture the view of the creek and marsh each day from their kitchen window. A passing sailboat illustrates the beauty of their view. I’m still learning my camera and this was good practice with aperture settings. A few of the pictures are shown below.
Because we had brought our bicycles with us to Charleston, I was determined to use them. Charleston is great for bike riding. There is a small park on the harbor shore near Collin and Austin’s home so we rode there for Helen to look for seashells while I practiced a little more with the camera.
A busy water dog served as entertainment as well as practice for the camera lens, but we had to cut our bike ride short in order to work in one more activity before dinner.
Cason’s birthday is a week away, so we asked her to pick out a tree or shrub while we were at Lowe’s shopping for landscaping materials and we would plant it to mark her birthday. She immediately picked out a hydrangea. Her grandmother was thrilled. Shown below is a picture of Cason and her hydrangea.
That evening, we put a lid on this busy day with a wonderful dinner of barbecued pork chops with all of the trimmings followed by an early birthday party for Cason. Her grandmother had gone on an all out search for a new edition of “Shopkins” for her and a second group for her big sister. Both were surprised and elated. Once the Shopkins were opened, parents and grandparents were ignored but we regained their attention with chocolate cupcakes. I love birthday parties.
On Sunday we packed our car and dressed for church while Collin prepared awesome fried egg sandwiches for everyone and dressed the girls for church. In order to have an early start for the trip back home, we attended the 9:00 am service at Grace Episcopal Church where Collin and Austin are members. This is a beautiful old church with a very active congregation and we were welcomed by many members of the congregation. The service featured a children’s sermon by a puppeteer and the children delighted in his performance. The puppeteer actually was a newly ordained minister who also conducted the church service. He is a gifted young man. We attended the coffee reception after church and then hit the road…a little tired but very happy.
Easin’ Along was created to highlight a retirement hopefully filled with the elements of Faith, Family, Food and, most importantly, Fun. On this trip to Charleston, we touched every element. The Cheetah’s may have to wait until next time, but Easin’ Along scored a big win.