Visit to family is like a vacation | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Jun 01, 2018

Spring in northern Idaho means green pastures and blue skies – and time for a visit to my son Brad and his family. It had been way too long since I’d been to see them, so I stocked up on books to listen to on the road and drove the six hours to visit them.

With some advance planning, I can fly to Spokane, and my son or daughter-in-law will pick me up, but it’s a pleasant drive in springtime. I’ll never like having them live so far away – but many grandparents live thousands of miles away from their adult children and sweet grandchildren. I’m fortunate that daughter Lisa and family live in West Seattle.

Granddaughter Annika will be 15 in July. As a teenager, she is deeply involved in 4-H, which means she and her mother both are on the run with projects and animals and shows. It’s a healthy, wholesome life, and when I visit, I feel happy and, somehow, calm – despite being in the midst of a great deal of activity.

I suppose the feeling of calm comes partly from a lack of responsibility – a grandma can do a lot of admiring of animals and projects and pastoral views without doing much work.

This year for 4-H, Annika is raising a steer named Alfie and a heifer named Charley. She will show Alfie at the fair in August and sell him at auction at that time. Annika plans to keep Charley and breed her.

Then Annika will have a calf to raise – one more new experience. In the meantime, Ani and her mother are involved in various stock shows, not necessarily close to home. Did I mention that 4-H is time-consuming?

Last weekend, Annika came home with a gorgeous Reserve Champion banner for Alfie’s (or Charley’s?) exemplary performance in a livestock show.

I’d guess the steer and the heifer each weigh in the neighborhood of 1,400 pounds at this point, and I was astonished at how our 14-year-old successfully exerts her will on an enormous – sometimes unwilling – animal of that size.

She treats then with consistent firm discipline. I cannot imagine having anywhere near that amount of confident authority when I was her age. Truthfully, watching her work with either of those large animals made me a bit nervous.

I’ve learned that 4-H activity tends to involve more than one sort of animal each year. Annika also rides and shows the two family horses, her mom’s horse River and her own horse Eddie. She takes riding lessons, leads her 4-H group and, with her mother, volunteers for a local therapy riding group, providing safe opportunities for adults and children who might not otherwise ever have the chance to ride horses.

And, of course, there’s homework for high school.

Visiting my son and his family gives me grand opportunities to spend outdoor time with them, with their two big dogs, their six (!) cats, assorted chickens and friendly pet bunny, Steve, who hangs out in the chicken yard but also seems to be occupied with excavating an actual rabbit warren under the henhouse.

It’s impossible to tell how far he has tunneled. Meanwhile, amid all the activity, the three exotic-looking Guinea hens perch on fence posts and provide raucous vocal entertainment.

I like to take my garden gloves and tools with me when I go to Idaho. Last week, my daughter-in-law and I spent time weeding and preparing for planting, then made a trip to a garden store. Debbie planted her large pots in front of the house, and I planted seeds for sunflowers and tall marigolds along the front of the barn.

Enjoying spring sunshine, digging in the dirt, chatting while we work – those are among my favorite Idaho entertainments. In the evenings, we played cards or dominoes or read together, or chatted in the living room.

For me, a visit with my son and his family in northern Idaho constitutes a vacation: Three of the dearest people in my world and a multitude of fascinating animals, all in a location of great natural beauty.

Can’t beat that!



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