I spent my childhood summers down by the water, and this became my stomping grounds. For weeks each year, I'd stay down at my grandparents' campground, and it felt very much like a second home. For my mother and my two uncles, this was a second home for them. They didn't just spend weeks, they spent the entire summer.
But, once they grew up and we came into the picture, they didn't have the time to spend down there anymore, and that campground tradition got passed down to us.
My sister and I knew every inch of the land and everyone knew who we were. For weeks each year, the campground and the surrounding town was ours. And, for years this was how it was-- until we grew up, too.
We don't have the time like we use to. My grandparents had to sell their camper, and we only drive through the old campground once a year, if we are lucky, to check in on old friends and see how the place is holding up. Some people have moved on, others have passed. But it'll always be "ours".
And we try to hold onto that as much as we can-- my sister and I, but also my Uncle and his family. Just like our "once a year visits" to our old stomping grounds, my uncle, my aunt, and my cousin, who have now moved states away, also come to visit once a year, as well. We try to visit them, too. When they are down back in our old stomping grounds, we meet up with them so that we can all enjoy the places that we use to rule when we were kids. Three generations of our family, all spending time together, in a place that we grew up in.
My grandparents. My uncle and aunt. My sister, my cousin and I.
I see the child in my uncle's eyes as he now drives instead of runs down all the old roads and points out his childhood haunts. It's a beautiful thing to see how happy he is -- and how happy we all are -- to be back in this place, to be doing things that we once did as kids. My uncle grew up at the water, but now he only sees it once a year.
While my sister and I see it more often than he, it still feels a lot different when we're not all down there together. It's nice to cherish this time we do get, and we try to make the most of our little visits. One of the things we always seem to do is go on adventures. And, while an old place, it has always been somewhere that we've tried something new.
When we were kids, my sister and I learned to ride our bikes at the campground. We taught our brother how to swim in the campground's lake. Then, years later, my Uncle, who also taught us to ice skate, taught us to kayak.
Today, I spent the day with my uncle again, and this time I learned how to paddle board.
But, our visit started the evening before, and the entire visit was an adventure in itself. It first started when we arrived right before the sun was to set. We went to a local seafood restaurant, and we ate outside on the deck. The boat docks to the left, we shared conversations of the things we'd missed and had a delicious meal as the sun went down over the water.
We then went to the house that my uncle was renting, and we got to explore it. It was small, but very cozy and had an old-sort-of-historic charm to it. We spent the night, and then we woke at 5:50 A.M. to get ready for our morning run with our cousin.
While my uncle rode his bike, my cousin and my sister and I ran an 8-mile long run along the waterfront. Even with it being so early, it still got very hot. But it was a rewarding (and speedy!) run with my family, and I only wish that we got together more often.
My grandma, cousin, aunt, and I then ended up going to a place to get acai bowls. Although they look good, I've never had one before so I stuck with a classic double chocolate muffin instead. But, I enjoyed learning about what acai bowls are and seeing my family enjoy them. I'm thinking that next time I definitely want to branch out a little bit more and get one!
Not much later, we travelled to the beach, and that's where I learned to paddle board! My uncle showed me how to stand up on it and then how to paddle! We went up and down the side of the beach and manuevered around the boats in the water. At one point, we got off the paddle boards and stopped at a smaller beach. We saw hermit crabs, actual crabs, snails, minnows, and clams!
We paddled up and down the pond, and then we had lunch on the beach with the rest of the family... just like the good old times!
By the time we'd finished paddle boarding, it was getting late. We spent an hour longer with each other, and then my grandparents and I said our goodbyes and went home.
I love these little visits, and I wish there were so many more. But I will forever be thankful for the time that we do have, and for all of our memories in our stomping grounds. We may not run them like we use to, but these roads will forever feel like home.