My two granddaughters just returned from a week in New Jersey visiting their other grandparents, Barbara and Andy Gish, who live in a retirement community in Barnegat, a town on the Jersey shore north of Atlantic City. Their house is minutes from the beach.
When they returned, Peyton, the older at almost 5, explained that they went to the beach, “every day,” and that she had learned to surf. I imagine what she means is that she used a boogie board to body surf. Otherwise I’m signing her up for a remake of Gidget — Gidget Goes New Jersey! She said they went to the carnival and rode on the horses, which I think is her interpretation of Atlantic City and the merry-go-round. Also, she revealed, they got to stay at their grandparents’ house one night “without Mommy and Daddy — they had to stay in a hotel!” Next year, she is going to bring back seashells for everyone she knows, so if you want some, get on the list.
Andie, who is 2, said she went to the beach, too, and she has the tan to prove it. She has made no promises about bringing anything back for anyone next year.
While they were in New Jersey, we went up to St. Paul for grandson Harry’s second birthday, an ice cream social featuring friends and neighbors with many children around his age. The number of two-year-olds along with the mounds of toys made for an interesting phenomenon. The party began to sound like birds in the spring, the children all crying, “Mine!” “Mine!” “MIne!” answered by parents cawing, “Share!” “Share!” “Share!”
After the birthday party, John and I drove to Minneapolis to spend a night with former Winonans Jan and Bernie Wagnild, old friends from women’s softball (Jan and I) and business (John and Bernie, who owned Wagnild Chevrolet).
Monday night, after work, we extended our indulgent weekend by making a trip to Pepin for dinner. There, we ran into George Henthorne and Jane Heise (another old softball buddy of mine), who had the same idea on a beautiful August night. I was telling Jane that the kids were at the Jersey shore, and assured her that no, they weren’t with Snookie, when two women at the next table overheard us talking about it. As they were leaving, they asked the waitress what the next town was downriver, so I took the opportunity to suggest Winona for a room and a morning trip to a world class marine art museum. They thanked us, and asked where on the Jersey shore our kids were, because that’s where they were from — Asbury Park. Small world. They took a hundred photos of Lake Pepin and the sailboats and then went on their way. I hope they enjoyed Winona.
Tuesday morning, Cynthya Porter’s story about the Food for Thought project, a collaboration of The Edge church, Winona Volunteer Services and Dist. 861, came across my desk for editing. It is an effort by volunteers who pack backpacks with food that children can prepare for themselves during the weekend. It is a sad fact that teachers noticed many children coming to school hungry on Monday morning, not having had much to eat over the weekend.
I thought about my children and grandchildren, and the children of most in the Winona area, and I marvel that even during hard economic times when some of us might be out of work, or can’t sell our houses, or might have to forfeit them, we all can get enough to eat. We still live good lives, even great lives. The thought that my little grandchildren might go hungry over a weekend makes my heart seize up.
That there are children among us who do not get food but for the kindness of strangers is something that must make us stop and rethink what we consider the hardships in our lives from this “great” recession. We must also stop and think about those who take action to mitigate the suffering of others and thank them.